Saving Kids From Higher Ed Hardship

Last week I covered the continuing scandals in higher education…or at least some of it. I noted that the recent admissions scandals represent just the tip of the iceberg. Bribes and donations are exchanged for admission, “scholars” distort data in exchange for grants, riots break out with little response, tuition and fees increase excessively, Christian students are ridiculed, pro-life students are attacked, and on and on and on.

With such elevated dysfunction on campus, I wondered what parents can do. I also promised to address that issue. As we begin it’s important to say first that solutions really depend on both students and parents. What works in one place may not be right or even possible in another. That said, I offer the following ideas:

Search out the reputation, environment and surrounding communities of your college possibilities

When our kids were checking out colleges, we actually traveled there. In fact, even when they were younger, when we visited a city we also visited local colleges and universities. We talked with people, visited the admissions office, checked retention rates, ate in cafeterias and looked for like-minded organizations that support the values and interests of our kids. I also visited with security to ask about campus crime (that’s supposed to be available) and met with local pastors and others in the community. Simply stated, we were fact finding and we wanted to know as much as we could about the ethos of each school we visited.

Arrange to visit with the Dean and department heads

This is a crucial part of your visit. Try to set it up in advance, and if they’re not available that tells you something as well. Ask them questions about educational philosophy, graduation rates, post college job placements, tolerance for diverse opinions and more. You want to know as much as possible about the people who may be teaching your child. Some call this helicopter parenting, but I call it checking out your investment. Think about it, before your child graduates you will have invested anywhere from $100,000 to as much as $300,000 in after tax money.

Realize there’s no perfect college, so find one that fits

Ask questions! Will they be able to make friends? Will they be respected? Can they pursue their interests without being hassled? Use your instincts here. Sometimes kids have life long dreams of attending a particular school. Yet, as you fact-find you realize the place is not a good match. That’s why you should visit several colleges before you make a final decision. Remember, you’re the consumer. Within reason, the college should offer what you want, and that includes safety and respect for your child.

We already discussed the riots at UC Berkeley, but consider the University of Missouri. Protests about the racial climate accelerated in the fall of 2015. An African American group, Concerned Student-1950, blocked the president’s car during homecoming and issued a list of demands including his removal. One student staged a hunger strike; the black football players threatened to stop playing until the university met their demands.

Volatility accelerated and eventually the president did resign. However, their momentary triumph proved shallow, as campus tensions rose. University administrators failed to lead and enrollment growth reversed quickly. In fact, freshman enrollment fell 35% over the next two years. What’s more interesting is that black student enrollment dropped by 42%. This caused a $49 million shortfall and the university wound up eliminating 185 positions and 30 staff members.

The point here is that parents chose not to send their children to that university because the leadership allowed it to become unsafe, and you have the right to do the same. Transition to college is hard enough. Do what you can to make it easier.