College Tips for Conservative Parents
Lately, conservative parents have been laser-focused on K–12 education. And well they should be: perhaps no other issue is as important to our nation's future.
But what about college? Those same parents will soon be faced with that very question. And the people who run our public colleges and universities, unlike their K–12 counterparts, are largely unelected and therefore much less accountable to taxpayers.
Fortunately, families have options — beginning with recognizing that not everyone has to go to college to be successful. These days, hardworking young people can pursue a number of careers that pay well yet don't require any post-secondary education, much less a degree.
On the other hand, I do believe that a liberal arts education has intrinsic value. There's more to life than just earning a living. Moreover, many worthwhile careers do require higher education: law, medicine, accounting, and teaching, just to name a few. If your child wishes to work in one of those fields, college is in his future.
Unfortunately, many universities these days have become toxic, poisoning young minds with a warped view of reality. Gatherings of middle-aged conservative parents are replete with stories of good, well raised, God-fearing kids who went off to State U and returned home as committed, brain-dead leftists.
That is scary stuff for parents, and understandably so. But what can they do? Here are some suggestions.
Religious colleges. The solution for many is to send their kids to private religious colleges. That is generally a good idea; it's what my wife and I have done. However, there are drawbacks. Such schools tend to be more expensive than their state counterparts, even with scholarships. They may offer a limited number of majors, and their degrees might not be as respected as those of other institutions when graduates apply for jobs and graduate or professional school.
Most importantly, parents must understand that there are no guarantees. Even at a church-affiliated college, your child will probably encounter leftist professors and students. The indoctrination might be more subtle, but that doesn't mean it's nonexistent.
Thus, it's vital for parents not to assume that just because their child attends a religious school, everything is hunky-dory. Parents must provide more than just a tuition check; they must continue to offer guidance, discipline, and a positive example.
Technical colleges. Another viable option is the local technical college. This ties into the point I made earlier — that kids don't necessarily need a bachelor's degree to be successful — while recognizing that even some non-professional careers do require a certain amount of formal training.
An example would be information technology, where people with two-year degrees can often do just as well as those with four-year degrees. And in fields like auto mechanics or HVAC — which can pay very well, indeed — a technical degree or certificate is all you need.
The advantages of sending your child to technical college are many. Tuition is typically much cheaper, they can graduate in two years or less, and they leave with a marketable skill. They can also live at home, which further saves money while keeping them under your protective wing for another year or two. And they're less likely to encounter far-left instructors or fellow students. At a technical college, the primary focus is workforce development, not grievance politics.
Community colleges. Speaking of keeping your kids home an extra year or two, you can do that even if they plan on earning a four-year degree. The local community college is an often underappreciated resource for families. Community colleges might lack prestige, but students who do well there can transfer to a university after a year or two. These days, almost half of all students who earn bachelor's degrees attended a community college at some point.
As I frequently tell fellow parents, the adjustment to college is twofold: students must adapt to college-level work while also enjoying an unprecedented amount of personal freedom. Living at home and attending community college allows them to make the first adjustment even as they continue to benefit from a strong support system.
Dual enrollment. Another way of shepherding your kids through that first year or two of college is to have them begin while still in high school. "Dual enrollment," "dual credit," and "concurrent enrollment" programs allow students to earn as much as two years' worth of college credit by taking college courses instead of high school classes during their junior and senior years.
Such programs tend to be very low-cost — in some cases, free — and are generally recognized by accredited institutions within the state. Classes are often offered at the high school, meaning the college instructors come to the students — the students don't have to go to them. I've written extensively about dual enrollment elsewhere, if you're interested.
Online college. Finally, there is the option of attending college fully online. Most students these days take an online course or two, maybe more. And I don't see a problem with that. I've taken and taught online courses myself. Done well, they can be very effective.
I do think students should be careful about obtaining their entire degree online, though, as such degrees still don't have quite the cachet as traditional ones. I also worry that fully online students miss out on some of the best parts of the college experience, including in-person interactions with professors and classmates.
For many students, however, the advantages may outweigh the disadvantages: lower cost, the opportunity to live at home, the convenience of being able to study on their own schedule. Moreover, not all the interactions I mentioned are positive; in some cases, "missing out" might be a blessing.
Much more could be said on this topic than I have space for in a 1,000-word column. But hopefully, these suggestions have given you something to think about. I recommend that you spend some time researching the options on your own. The goal is to give your children a good head start in life without subjecting them to excessive indoctrination and degradation.
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