I hope you won’t mind if we pre-empt our originally-scheduled topic for this month in order to share a different one that has been on my heart lately.
Our oldest daughter is fifteen, soon to be sixteen, and we’re starting to field that typical question asked of a teen who is soon to graduate: “Where are you going to college?” Twenty years ago that question didn’t phase me; today I brace myself whenever I hear it coming. You see, over the past few years God has been inching us along this path of sincerely questioning many of society’s customs that we grew up taking for granted. This isn’t a flippant, rebellious sort of questioning; it’s a soul-searching, count-the-cost type of questioning.
So as the traditional college years appear on the horizon, these have been my concerns.
The Typical “College Experience”
The question has been posed, “Don’t you want your daughter to have the college experience?” To be honest, I’m not really sure that I do! The experience I had in college (and I went to a very conservative Christian college) was that I was isolated from real life and surrounded by kids very close to my own age with minimal adult supervision. Hmm, that sounds very similar to the set-up of traditional school classrooms from Kindergarten on and eerily close to one of the reasons I chose to homeschool apart from that environment. Why would I embrace that methodology now?
Think about it: We’ve spent all this time and effort bringing our children up in an inter-generational atmosphere. They’ve been surrounded with real life and encouraged to pursue personal interests and develop a love for learning. They’ve learned to value our parental advice and view us as best friends and godly counselors. So why would we pay multi-thousands of dollars for them to be isolated with people their own age away from us parent-friends in a not-at-all-real-life classroom environment that requires everyone to follow the same schedules and study the same things?
I’m not sold on “the college experience.”
The Protection of My Daughters
I’m also concerned about protecting our children’s minds, hearts, and bodies. In college courses, the content of a class all depends upon the professor; we have no control over what views and information are put into our children’s minds. It’s also difficult to guard our children’s hearts when they are surrounded day and night by the worldly values of their peers (yes, even in a conservative Christian college). And recent media articles and interviews confirm that college campuses are becoming increasingly dangerous places for our children physically.
I cannot reconcile our God-given responsibility to protect our daughters and the culturally-driven expectation to place them in the middle of that kind of environment.
The Soaring Cost and Potential Debt
Have you looked at the cost of college lately? It can cost anywhere from $6,000 to $30,000 per year for just tuition and fees; that figure doesn’t include books, transportation, room and board, or living expenses. It’s outrageous — and increasing faster than the cost of living!
Sending your children to college requires hundreds of thousands of dollars that most parents don’t have. So it is expected that either the parents will assume a huge debt or the children will assume that debt and take it into their first years at a new job or first years of marriage. Those early years of career and marriage generate enough stress and adjustment without our children’s also being saddled with financial difficulties from the very beginning!
The Assumed Advantage of a Degree
And what do our children get for this massive money outlay? A piece of paper that says they’ve read the books, taken the tests, and otherwise completed their assigned work over the years. Now, I admit that in our world today some benefits exist to those having this piece of paper called a degree; it may not be sensible, but it is a reality. However, decisions about what God wants our children to do with their lives should not depend on the world’s expectations and values. How much better to tell our children to seek the Lord regarding their future work for Him and to hold college as one option, if He calls them to it, rather than as an assumption by default. Many of our friends, as well as ourselves, are involved in work and ministry that doesn’t make use of our selected college majors or earned degrees. Are you using yours? Something to ponder.
I guess the bottom line is this: I’m not saying that college degrees are worthless; I’m just not positive that they are as necessary as we’ve been led to believe. And if the Lord does direct a child toward getting a degree, I’m not convinced that the traditional route of paying multi-thousands of dollars to spend years in a “college experience” is the most prudent way to earn one.
Enter College Without Compromise, an exciting new book that spells out an alternate route! Yes, our children can earn college degrees (if God leads them to do that) for much fewer dollars and without compromising the goals we have worked toward for all these years as intentional parents.
I wholeheartedly agree with this statement from the final chapter of the book (which, by the way, emphasizes intergenerational living): “As we have stated many times, academics is only one piece of the child-rearing puzzle. The main goal is to send them out strong, prepared to love and serve their Lord.”
Please think through the whole “What about college?” question prayerfully and Biblically. Let’s encourage our children to seek God’s direction and wait on His timing without the typical pressure of those post-graduation years looming before them. Hey, maybe we could start a new trend in pre-graduation questions! Instead of asking teenagers, “Where are you going to college?” we could ask, “What has God been leading you to do next?”
Q & A
Q: Don’t teenagers have to learn to be independent sometime?
A: If by “independent” you mean being able to adequately run and provide for their own households in real life, then yes, they do need to learn that. That is the goal of teaching them home skills through the years. By their teenage years, they should be well prepared to run their own households. But if by “independent” you simply mean out from under their parents’ authority and protection, I would question whether a college campus is the wisest place to make that important step of transition. College life does not resemble real life. Also, Biblically, our daughters should remain under the authority and protection of their father until he transfers that authority and protection to their husbands. Such a principle is not restrictive, but loving and secure.
Q: If my son doesn’t go to college, where will he find his future wife?
A: Don’t worry. God is not limited by geography, and He did an adequate job of bringing marriage partners together before colleges were even “invented.” Pray and watch Him work it out for His glory.