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In our home, we’re no strangers to higher education and student debt. Between my husband and myself, we’ve attended three North Carolina universities. While we don’t have outstanding student loans, we’re pretty lucky. As someone who works for a university, I see firsthand how the price tag of college is affecting our kids.
A friend recently posted that they paid off student loans – more than 20 years after graduating. I am fortunate enough to have had my loans paid off within a few years of graduating, but that isn’t always the case.
In North Carolina, the NC Constitution mandates that the benefits of our public universities “as far as practicable, be extended to the people of the State free of expense.” Our per-student spending is at risk, and we’ve seen funding drop over the past ten years, and it’s so important that we ensure it doesn’t continue to drop and that we are actually putting more into our education system. Higher Ed Works has a recent article about student debt which shows the numbers. While North Carolina still looks good when you’re going state-by-state, our state spending per student has decreased. And don’t all of our kids deserve to go to college – and to graduate without a ton of accrued debt?
A couple of months ago, my son and I were driving home when we had the following conversation:
Him: We don’t have to go to college, right?
Me: Um….why would you say that?
Him: Well if we don’t have to go to college, I don’t think I’m going to go. I don’t want to spend all that money and I’m just going to get a job.
Me: Oh, you’re going to college. Don’t worry about that.
My son, at age 8, is a thinker and he already doesn’t like to spend money on things that he thinks might be wasteful. I’ve had to reassure him that a college education – whether it’s from one of our community colleges or a four-year school – is worth the money. I’ve also had to let him know that many jobs are going to require some post-high school education, so I don’t mind if he attends a two-year or four-year school, he will be better off attending one.
Back to that conversation in the car. I walked into the house and told my husband what was said. My mind was pretty blown. My husband teaches an online course for East Carolina University, and it really isn’t a question of if our kids will pursue a degree one day. We’re saving now so that they don’t have to worry about extra costs, and they will be going to college after high school. What I don’t want to be in question is how much debt my kids may need to go into to get a degree. And this girl deserves to attend school without too much worry.
I can also tell you that after just one trip to Appalachian State University’s campus in Boone back in September, both of my kids are sold on going to college one day. My husband is an alum of Appalachian State (and of East Carolina University), and this was the first time we attended a football game. We spent the entire day on campus so we could show them both around. My daughter is only 3, but Appalachian State may be her favorite school ever. By the way, hearing a three-year-old pronounce Appalachian is about the cutest thing you’ll hear these days.
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