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3 Tips to Make Your Expensive College Education Count

by Chuck Bentley May 27, 2016

Originally posted at Christian Post May 27, 2016.

Dear Chuck,

With kids in college, I’m very worried about whether they can get a job after graduation and about the debt they’re going to need to manage because my wife and I can’t afford to pay for their educations free and clear. But it’s hard to get a good job without a college education. Do you have advice for us on making the most of a college degree?

Worried Parents

Dear Parents,

With four sons, my wife and I can relate to your concerns as we have worked with our boys to get a college education without debt.  I’m especially concerned for today’s graduates because I believe that they are on the verge of suffering through another economic bubble poised to burst – a college debt bubble – just like the housing bubble that burst, leaving people stuck with homes worth less than the mortgage debt. Similarly, many graduates will owe more than they can afford to pay back because of low-paying or unavailable jobs. According to the Wall Street Journal, 2016 college graduates broke the debt record set in 2015, leaving college today with an average debt of $37,172.  With so many young people burdened as they start their adult lives, it’s important to make a plan that ensures their investment pays off.

Because the costs are so high, I believe parents and students need to seek lots of counsel before going into debt for a college education. Proverbs 15:22 notes, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Know Yourself. We are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” by a loving God who intended us to accomplish His purposes on this earth. The question is, what is God’s purpose for our lives? Crown has developed Career Direct as an assessment tool to understand a person’s unique gifts and talents, because those are the skills best developed into a career. It’s important information to have as so many young adults get into additional debt because they’ve chosen the wrong majors for themselves, leading to higher costs and delays to discovering the right path.

Dr. Richard Neuman notes: “The sad truth is that most college students do not graduate on time. Only one out of three students (33%) graduates from a four-year bachelor’s degree program in four years. In fact, after six years, only a little more than 60% of college students will have completed their college degree.” And every year of additional college adds costs to your bottom line.

The cost of investing in the wrong career can be even higher, as time is lost and extra education is sometimes needed to get back on track. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that only 27 percent of college grads are working in jobs related to their majors. Even more tragic is that they also found (in 2010) that more than 6 in 10 graduates were in jobs that did not require a college degree at all.

Getting wise career counseling before college and during will make a significant difference in costs and the long-term return on your investment.

Get Counsel from Working Professionals. Having identified a career you’re interested in and chosen a field of study, additional knowledge and experience can make all the difference. Networking with people in your chosen field, leading to a mentor relationship can help you avoid common mistakes as well as make important connections. Internships within a company where you would like to work are a great way to interview for a job from the inside, showcasing your skills and proving before being hired that you would fit into the team.

Even knowing what you want to do, you still need advice on how to do it well. Consider that the disciples were called by Jesus himself into ministry, yet they spent three years being trained by their Master.. A career takes time, experience and a lot of good advice to develop even when you are on the right track.

Get Counsel from Those Who Care for You. Take the time to ask people who actually know you, love you and are truly committed to you about the choices you are contemplating. They may have some insight into whether you really will prosper in a career you are considering. You may not like what those closest to you say, but when someone is truly on your side, their words – good or bad – are often insightful. While students may not welcome the advice, parents are a great resource on decisions like this as most truly desire their children’s best.

Get Counsel from He who Made You. Remember to spend time in prayer, as He who made you is the greatest resource for the path you should take. Remember Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you hope and a future.”

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