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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

"What About College?"

With the impending arrival of baby #4, it would seem that we have exceeded the socially acceptable norm of how many kids one should have, at least in the area we live in. Even though I wasn't surprised by the question, the number of people who've asked about our the size of our family has surprised me. One of most the popular questions that has come up over and over again is, "What about college?" The heart of this question is, "How can you afford college education when you have so many kids?"

This post is our attempt at an educated response to this question which we find, well, well-meaning but misprioritized.

Our first response: should you determine how many kids to have based on whether you can afford your kids' college education? While we certainly see the value of higher education, especially as it relates to numerous professional choices, we question the wisdom of making potential college costs the all-encompassing standard by which we judge whether we can "responsibly" raise a given number children. As Christians, the standard of 'responsibility' should rather be whether we can raise them in the fear & admonition of the Lord while keeping them 'reasonably' clothed & fed.

That being said, we are not naive when it comes to the cost of college education. To answer the question more directly, here are some of my thoughts:
  • I attended a 4-year university and paid for my own college education without any financial assistance from my parents. I got scholarships, financial aid, and student loans to pay for my tuition. Upon graduation and finding a job, I paid off my loan in two years. I have no qualm in expecting my kids to do the same. Of course, we will help them out financially if they truly need it. It is also a very good way of teaching them the value of money. It has been my experience that people who have their college education completely paid for by their parents take their education for granted. Because I had to pay my tuition back with my own money, I know how much it costs and the value of it.

  • Attending a community or junior college for the first two years is a very cost effective route. Let's be honest: the first two years of college consists of general education and lower division classes. Why not take these courses at a junior college and then transfer to a university? If you have a certain GPA, most universities have a guaranteed transfer from your junior college.

  • Another college route is taking the CLEP exam which stands for College Level Examination Program. By taking these standardized tests, you earn college credits thus reducing the number of courses you need to take to complete your degree. It is my hope that my children take advantage of CLEP during their high school years so they do not need to spend all 4 years at a university.

  • It's been a blessing to have some friends over yesterday discussing family size and college education. Our friend who comes from a family of eight kids tells us that currently there are five children in his family who are attending college. They are paying for their own college tuition via scholarships, financial aid, and student loans. There haven't been any issues with this approach. This friend's family experience has confirmed my own understanding. It helps to confirm that we are not simply naive dreamers when it comes to our children's prospective college educations.

In closing, I want to reiterate that as Christian parents our chief goal and consideration, whether in growing or maintaining our family size, is to raise godly children not college-bound kids. Like nothing else Evers or I have done before, parenting has stretched our faith in God and forced us to rely upon him. Yet we feel confident that as long as our eyes are set on heaven -- not Harvard -- He will grant us strength and wisdom to complete this task faithfully.