Many people believe that the only way to ensure success for your children is to have them attend college and earn a bachelor's degree. In fact, studies have shown that more than 70 percent of college graduates do not work in the fields in which they earned their degrees.
Why is this important to know? Because many times the decision about where to attend college is based on the career field in which the child expects to work. If the college or university specializes in a particular field, we often work off of the philosophy that "whatever it takes to make my little Susie or Jimmy get into that school is worth it." The truth is, an undergraduate degree in liberal studies allows many young people the opportunity to see which field really works for them, both financially and practically. Then a master's degree may be more appropriate for them afterwards.
I have always been a proponent of community colleges as a starting point for high school graduates. The ability to learn college-level study habits and discipline is inexpensive when compared to a four-year university. Remember, if your kids don't graduate or get a "good" job, you do not get your college tuition money back.
In my experience, there are a few times when going straight to a four-year college is the right choice. Let's start with finances. First, if all the money has been set aside and no student loans are needed, then it may make sense to go off to a traditional four-year university. The next two steps should also be met. Secondly, the maturity level of the student has to be high. He or she should have the ability to make good choices and have a history of doing that. This is more of a feeling that you and your spouse need to have. In fact, you should be able to point to some real life examples of those decisions. Lastly, if the student's career choice requires taking advantage of networking with the university's alumni, then it may make sense to go on to a four-year university, and for you to carry the cost of an education.
Arif M. Halaby is Pres./CEO of Total Financial Solutions, Inc., a financial and insurance services company based in Santa Clarita, CA.