First off, if you are above 28, for get about any more formal education. It will never pay off better than you putting your resources into your own business. Starbucks prefers a 22 year old college graduate to a 32 year old one. And so does everyone else.
Perhaps it is condign punishment to be so indentured for having believed the false economy had anything to offer except misery for people.
I was reading Gerard of Siena. He makes some distinctions I found interesting. For example the prohibition to not "eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil" is a prohibition for no apparent reason. The tree is fine in and of itself, the prohibition is to teach people to remain humble and obey the Creator. An important lesson in life is we cannot have everything we want immediately.
Then there are prohibitions in place because in all places and all times the activity causes harm. For example, usury, such as student loan debt. Just do not do it. We can have usury-provisioned instant gratification, but never escape the usury-provisioned perdition.
My last child graduated from college with zero student loan debt. That makes three. That makes us fairly unique. It is not at all difficult, you must simply "think outside the box" and refuse the seemingly easy way. Each kids story is unique. Each kid (being girls) was required to acquire domestic arts, so one did sewing, another did cooking, and the last home ec, before they got a BA. (If I had sons, they'd be like carpenter, plumber, etc.) You gotta have a fallback skill. We all fall back.
Next, I insisted on not wasting the bachelors degree, so I forbid any pointless degree like pre-law, business, pre-med, computer science, etc. What a waste of human life! My eldest has a comparative religion degree, my middle a Latin degree (Summa Cum Laude) and the youngest, a "humanities" degree, whatever that is. Who cares, as long as it was not one of those "career-prep" degrees the curriculum of which crowds out any chance of getting an education. I say "atta girls!"
While their peers languish with debt and unemployment, the eldest is a features editor of a major newspaper in LA, the middle one is on a full-ride phd-program scholarship in Paris at the Sorbonne, and the last one summiting peaks days off while learning the fancy restaurant business nights from the trenches. Who knows where that will go? At least she will not be rendered desultory by the hegemon.
Each followed a fairly unique way to accomplish their goals, but some principles.
1. Never take the student loan. It causes harm in every instance (and it is not necessary.)
2. While in the 1970s you could work summers and pay for the school year, and the 1980s you could work summers and 12 hours per week part time to pay for the school year, by the 90s you need to take a year off to pay for a year in school. OK, do that. BA credits never time out, so take 8 years instead of four, if you have to. (Also, summer school is cheaper, faster than the other three quarters, so if you are only taking a quarter a year off, maybe take winter quarter off to work in ski resorts, and go to summer school to stay on schedule.)
3. The last two kids were 1/2 done with college before they graduated from high school. This is not tough. Neither high school nor college is anywhere near as demanding as they were in the 1970s. A college degree today is on par with a high school diploma circa 1968. If a kid today studied as much as was required back then, they could easily do this. These programs are called running start, etc. The classes are usually free for high school kids, but the credits count toward a college degree. Astronomy 101 in a community college has 24 students. At a State University it has 300 students. And in any event, the content of both is the same as the high school astronomy course (if not even the textbook), so double dip!
4. School libraries often have a copy of the course textbook. Once you are enrolled in a class, check that book out. if not, go crying to the teacher about being a poor highs chool kids. he has a desk copy he got for free. he may loan it to you. If not, buy a Thai edition of the USA text book, $25 vs $300 for the same book.
5. Don't follow the rules about class loads, etc. Take a full load of night classes while a full load at high school. Instead of wasting time during high school hours, do your college class homework. Questions on college work? Ask a high school science teacher, or whomever.
6. Never take any online college credit classes. They are a complete rip-off, because they are not an education. They say it costs maybe 1/2 as much, but you get maybe 1/8th the education, in effect you pay 4 times as much. At least 1/2 of what you learn is face to face with peers in the classroom, and the sage on the stage is exponentially more valuable. And this from me who pioneered online ed back on AOL and got in TalkCity.com at 10 cents a share and sold at $13 something during the dotcom boom (and bust.) At best, online courses are equal to being in a library with a librarian (somethig I value highly, and necessary for a good education, but not sufficient.). Education means to "lead-out" (presumably into the light) and pixel mediation is not what they meant.
Instruction means to build brick by brick, and to take out the face to face with the cohort and the sage on the stage is woefully limited.
7. Education is chock full of people of good-will who go home every night an weep copiously over the waste fraud abuse endemic in education. They rend their clothes and struggle against substance abuse to ease the pain they experience seeing so much in the way of resources yield a woefully net negative. When a student comes to them and says, "You know, I don't want to do that, I want to do this..." you might as well have announced the Second Coming. They will leap for joy at finding a student who has eschewed the three tracks on offer at USA high schools: Indentured servitude, poverty draft or incarceration prep. Any high schooler can truly write his own ticket in USA. Your kid learns to see reality, act on it, and also demur when offered instant gratification when it comes with Hegemonic strings attached.
Reject the Hegemon and all his works. Don't take his "the first pill is free" offer. Assume the narrative and common knowledge is nonsense. Every case is unique, and getting a kid out of college with no debt will be unique in every instance. It ain't the hand you're dealt, it's how you play the cards. Make sure your high schooler learns the bigger lesson: you are unique, and there is no program that works for you, so you must design your own. And you need never take that free first pill.
Feel free to forward this by email to three of your friends.