Is College Expensive? You Have No Idea. Really, You Don’t.

Our kids are in trouble. Big trouble. In every other generation in recent history, children have done better than their parents. They get more education, have better jobs, make more money, and live longer. Until now. Children growing up today are in the first generation that will be doing worse than their parents in just about every measurable area. And perhaps the most obvious sign of this changing tide is how families are adjusting their college dreams.

According to the just-released College Savings Indicator study (done by Fidelity Investments), only 31 percent of parents with kids headed for college have adequately considered how much college will cost, the impact of graduating with a crushing debt load, and how the choice of major could affect future employment prospects. Translation, 69 percent have not had the 21st Century version of “the talk.”

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Getting the Best out of College

[amazon asin=160774144X&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 1: Anne Crossman, coauthor of Getting the Best out of College.
Topic: Insider advice for success in college.
Issues: Ensuring that college-bound students are actually getting the most out of their college experience—and their money’s worth—once they arrive on campus; mastering every important aspect of college life (academically, socially, and beyond); how to full advantage of your college career and still have fun in the process.

College Life + School Refusal Behavior + College Acceptance Secrets

[amazon asin=160774144X&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 1: Anne Crossman, coauthor of Getting the Best out of College.
Topic: Insider advice for success in college.
Issues: Ensuring that college-bound students are actually getting the most out of their college experience—and their money’s worth—once they arrive on campus; mastering every important aspect of college life (academically, socially, and beyond); how to full advantage of your college career and still have fun in the process.


[amazon asin=0195306309&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 2: Christopher Kearney, author of Getting Your Child to Say “Yes” to School.
Topic: Helping a child with School Refusal Behavior (SRB).
Issues: Defining SRB (it’s a difficulty attending school or remaining in class for an entire day; how SRB differs from truancy or school phobia; recognizing the signs and symptoms of SRB; working with your child’s teachers to overcome SRB; how friends can help (or hurt).


[amazon asin=1592403026&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 3: Don Dunbar, author of What You Don’t Know Can Keep You out of College.Topic: A top consultant explains the 13 fatal application mistakes that can get a child rejected.
Issues: Why character is the key to college admissions; when “just be yourself” is a mistake; what admissions directors are really looking for and how they make their decisions.

A Delightfully Empty Nest + Eliminating Childhood Breathing Problems

[amazon asin=1452105979&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 1: Christie Mellor, author of Fun without Dick and Jane.
Topic: A guide to a delightfully empty nest.
Issues: Handling the initial adjustment period after the kids leave home; how to say “goodbye”; how to get your little darling to stay in touch—without begging; how to cope when he or she comes home for the Holidays, spring break, and maybe even for several years.


[amazon asin=981435497X&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 2: Nina Shapiro, author of Take a Deep Breath.
Topic: Clearing the air for the health of your child.
Issues: Why 80-90% of children will have a breathing problem at some point during childhood; which breathing problems are truly worrisome and which are perfectly normal; getting a clearer understanding of what’s really going on when your child breathes in and out.

Houston, We Have a Problem…

Dear Mr. Dad: How do you handle a 21-year-old male who’ dropped out of college, has no job, and has been living in our house for the past six months? My husband and I provide our son with a car, insurance, gas, clothes, and cover all his healthcare. But whenever we ask him to do anything around the house, he flat out refuses or does it poorly. And whenever we bring up the issue of his finding work and moving out, he gets angry and accuses us of not supporting him. What can we do?

A: My first reaction is to suggest that the next time your son leaves the house you call a locksmith and have all your locks changed. However, that would only work (to the extent that it would at all) if your son was responsible for the entire problem. He’s not. In fact, I’d say that you and your husband are making an already difficult situation even worse.

But let’s take a step back for a moment. If it makes you feel any better, you’re not alone in having an adult child move back in with you. Some studies have found that as many as a third of all young adults under 35 are living with ma and pa. The situation is so common that there’s actually a term for these adult children: “boomerang kids.” The bad news is that these arrangements are often extremely stressful on everyone involved, but especially on parents who had planned to downsize during their retirement years.

Okay, back to you. By providing your son with free room and board, transportation, and insurance, you’re undercutting any incentive he might have had to learn how to grow up and survive on his own. I’d actually go a step further and say that you’re encouraging your son to be a slacker—and the only way the situation is going to improve is if you change your behavior. Here’s what you’ll have to do:

  1. You and your husband need to get on the same page. Having one of you push for independence while the other slips your son wads of cash under the table will guarantee the status quo. What do you want to have happen, and over what period of time?
  2. Once you’ve come up with a plan, call a family meeting. Ask your son how he sees the current situation. Does he plan to finish college? Look for work? How long does he expect to be living with you? It’s possible that he’s feeling guilty and maybe even ashamed.
  3. Start charging. The value he places on his living arrangements is directly proportional to how much he has to pay. In other words, the less he pays—for rent, car, insurance, food, clothes—the more he’ll take them for granted. If he has income, put a dollar value on household chores and have him work off his debts.
  4. Get out your calendar. Your goal is to get your son ready to live in the real world. But it’s not going to happen overnight. So come up with a timetable that includes reasonable targets (enroll in college for the next semester, find a job within 12 weeks, move to your own place within six months, etc).
  5. Create rules and enforce them. Can he bring dates home to spend the night? Do you expect him to call if he’ll be spending the night elsewhere?

As the economy continues to stagnate, this is a bigger and bigger issue. We’ll go into more details in future columns.

Do Pipers Actually Get Paid?

Dear Mr. Dad: Help! Our son is a high school junior, but instead of planning for college, he says he wants to make a career out of playing drums in a band! He’s a talented musician, and he and his buddies play gigs at community events, but he can’t understand that he won’t make a living out of it. How do we persuade him to give college a chance?

A: There are really two issues here: First, can your son succeed as a musician? Second, should he skip going to college? Keep in mind that, at 16, he’s quite literally trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up and his desire to forgo college and play in a band may be just a flash in the pan.

Who says he won’t make a living playing music? Some people, either through hard work, sheer luck (or a combination of both), actually do make it, and some colleges do offer music scholarships. But in general, you’re right: most musicians—or artists in general—don’t. Far more creative people are unemployed or working as waiters or scooping gelato than those who are making a good living at it.
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