By Mike DuBose
Attending universities or technical schools is expensive and skyrockets when students pursue advanced degrees or out-of-state-institutions. Colleges provide detailed, on-line-cost-calculators for estimated expenses. Yearly pricing varies but examples (includes tuition, campus housing, meals, and fees) are Clemson University ($35,000), University of South Carolina ($39,000), Winthrop ($30,000), and private, smaller schools, like Newberry College, $44,000. Multiply those expenses X 4 years = $120,000-$180,000! Whew!
Start College Savings Early for Children/Grandchildren. States vary, but contributions to South Carolina’s Future Scholar 529-Fund (www.futurescholar.com) pay for high school, college, and graduate school expenses. Enrollment is simple and many SC citizens deduct payments on their state-tax-returns. It’s stock-based with conservative, moderate, or aggressive investment options. It can be shared amongst relatives according to need.
Consider Technical School—College Partnerships. Twenty-five organizations, like USC and Clemson, are now partnering with 2-year-colleges (www.sctechsystem.edu/students/transfer-programs.html). Tech students can transfer two years of pre-determined-academic credits to colleges and complete their 4-year-university degrees. Classes are smaller (12:1-staff-student-ratio), instructors have enhanced practical experience, and parking is more accessible. Midlands Technical College costs $18,000 annually and eligibility requirements may be less stringent.
Since today’s employment sector demands real experience, 4-year-college is not for everybody. Many university graduates are finding difficulty securing professional employment (53% of recent graduates are unemployed or underemployed). Because of job-market shortages, high-salaries, and inflation, employers often seek 2-year-technical-degreed-professionals. Research shows graduates are faring well (Registered-Nurses $65,000, Health-Assistants $40,000, Data-Processors $40,000, Auto-Mechanics $50,000).
Stay focused on in-state schools since out-of-state expenses double! College-bound students often don’t comprehend the long-range costs of schooling and need structured guidance and limitations. We don’t want to chain our children/grandchildren with easy-long-term-burdensome-student-loans which parents may have to co-sign.
Begin with High-School Guidance Counselors. Once students have “initially” chosen career goals and potential colleges, they should seek an advisor’s help. Remember most high school or college graduates don’t know their truly-desired employment until experiencing on-the-job-real-life situations later in life.
Encourage Students to Follow Their Passions. Regretfully, many individuals pursue money-making and prestigious jobs or degrees. Studies show that about 60% of the employed are unhappy in their jobs (20% miserable). It’s music to my ears when rarely hearing, “I love my job and the people I work with!” Too many parents push children to “Be like them,” “Do what’s logical,” or seek college degrees and jobs that fall outside their child’s gifts, passions, or desires. Based on a 12,000-student-survey, one-third changed their majors after the first year! We recommend students seek summer and part-time internships in organizations they’re considering “early on” before college graduation. This allows on-the-job assessments to determine if specific careers fit their future visions. They can earn extra monies and obtain opportunities to build relationships for post-graduation employment.
Encourage Students to Maintain “B” Grade Averages (or higher) in High School and College. South Carolina offers $5,000 annual Life Scholarships. When I interviewed job candidates for my companies, I always sought those with high-grade-point-averages (GPA) since excellent scores often represented higher intelligence and strong-work ethics. While in high school and college, create documented histories of volunteerism, leadership roles, honors/awards, community service, etc. Colleges and employers are seeking well-rounded applicants with a sense of purpose and diverse backgrounds. List high-GPA’s on résumés.
Consider Double Majoring. A second, desirable major will build an impressive résumé and generate alternative employment possibilities. Liberal-art-degrees, like psychology, almost always require advanced degrees to find jobs so consider dual-paths when making college plans. Consider high-school Advanced-Placement (AP), technical college, and on-line courses that transfer academic credits. Many individuals enrolled in these early courses began college as second-year-students! We recommend that freshman take less challenging and on-line courses during Year-1 with low caseloads. Avoid the more-difficult selections which can result in one-third of students not making it to their sophomore year!
Pursue Student Employment. We encourage parents to promote their children obtaining part-time jobs while in high school that results in quickly finding college part-time work (i.e., restaurant servers). Academic institutions also provide part-time jobs; our son was a Residence Assistant (RA) which paid his room and board.
Inquire with Financial-Aid Counselors. Schools have access to different funding sources. Some are specifically geared toward their college and others fall outside the school’s parameters. Make appointments with “senior advisors” since some staff are inexperienced. In addition, each school’s website lists various financial aids.
Identify anyone you know (friends, relatives, donors, graduates, or staff) associated with schools being considered who can elevate you to a higher status than “just another applicant.” Take note! It’s who you know that will help “open doors” for you throughout life!
Seek Other Financial Support. Grants, scholarships, and financial assistance vary between academic or merit-based achievement, economic need, community service, leadership skills, and teaching in economically-disadvantaged-areas. Visit www.studentaid.gov which includes many useful links (PELL and TEACH grants, Federal-Work-Study-Programs, student loans, financial aid descriptions, and Federal Student Aid FAFSA Forms to apply for monetary assistance). Completing the information allows schools to determine levels of monetary-relief. Students whose relatives were in the military or died in Iraq/Afghanistan wars may be eligible for assistance. Taking coursework year-round can result in graduating in three years.
Important! Each state has 1,000+ foundations and corporate-giving-programs which offer $1,000-$5,000 grants. Type into Internet browsers “(Your State) Foundations and Corporate-Giving Grant Programs. The non-profit Grantsmanship Center (www.tgci.com) contains state-specific grant search engines. Hire talented writers to tutor students in refining college-entrance essays/grant/aid applications.
The Bottom Line: Money is available to help pay for post-secondary-education but following what I know about life: “The key to success is hard work!”
The DuBose family’s purpose is to “Create Opportunities to Improve Lives.” Mike is a staff member with USC’s graduate school. In 1987, he founded his family of companies and eventually wrote the book “The Art of Building Great Businesses.” Visit his nonprofit website www.mikedubose.com for free access to his books and 100+ published articles, including business, travel, and personal topics, in addition to health research with Surb Guram, MD. Write to him at [email protected]