How much does your dream cost?

Has anyone ever asked you the price of one of your dreams? Seems like a ridiculous question, eh? Want to be a rock star? Want to find a cure for cancer? It’ll cost. Truthfully, it will cost but who wants to strip away them inspiration from some one else’s dream?

For many high school students (a recent study called Charting the Path from Engagement to Achievement: A Report on the 2009 High School Survey of Student Engagement) indicated that over 80% of high school students expect to go to college. Our education system, schools, families and our culture has done a good job of messaging the importance of attending college. It is a very reliable way to improve one’s lot in life. College students earn an average of $1M more over the course of their lifetimes than those who do not attend college.

While this is still true, the dream of college has a hefty price tag. This year, the average college graduate will carry the largest student loan debt in history: an average of $22,0000 per student.  Many students have gargantuan loans, more than the cost of a home. A recent story in the NYTimes (5/13/12) described students with loans of $70,000 who are working at restaurants making $260 a week, living at home, and facing a lifetime of daunting loan repayments.

Many quoted in the article mentioned the confusing financial aid process or the ambiguous language to explain the “affordability” of a college education.

How can we better prepare young people and their families–many of whom have not attended college–to navigate the cost of college? What skills might students have before attending college that might arm students with strong marketable skills in a part-time job market? How can we best prepare students for the best ROI on their college experience? Especially, those students who do not have the luxury of family support but are still expected to go to college, earn, and fully support their families.

Start early with exposure to all kinds of jobs and the related skills so that students have a good idea of the kind of work they like–and don’t like.  Begin education about the world of work at an early age so students can understand the meaning of a good job and job satisfaction.

Work experience comes from working. And doing a variety of interesting and uninteresting jobs–some that pay and some that are done for the value of doing for others. College will seem like part of the larger plan, not only a dream.

Executive Director of Apprentice Learning
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