This is the time of year when my thoughts usually turn to high school students approaching graduation. But this year, I’m thinking more about their parents. The graduates are confident and pretty certain what the world offers ahead. They’ve studied it on their cell phones. Parents though, bearing the bumps and bruises of life, are a bit less certain.
I guarantee you that somewhere tonight in Platte County a parent will awaken from their sleep and begin to contemplate savings accounts and student loan costs. In an ideal world, a parent will build savings from birth until college enrollment and find out that they have a surplus. But this is far from a perfect world. The economy is stagnant. Working folks both blue collar and white collar have gone without meaningful pay raises for many years. Studies repeatedly surface in the news that the gap between the rich and the middle class continues to widen. College is certainly not the only path to a successful life. But for many youths, their abilities that can help them earn a living match up with occupations that require a college degree. So, parents sweat.
I’ve helped one child through college and two more are probably headed in that direction in the next few years. So I’ve begun to survey the landscape. It’s foreboding.
But, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Out of curiosity I checked up on colleges close to Platte County, plus our state’s flagship university.
The average student attending the University of Missouri at Columbia racks up net costs of about $16,000 per year, according to the College Scorecard, a cost search engine sponsored by the White House. The actual cost is higher, but the Scorecard factors in the average scholarships received that reduce costs. Graduation rate at MU is 68.9 percent, that’s heartening. Student loan default for grads is running at about 3.9 percent, below the national average of 13.4 percent. The average student borrows almost $20,000 and pays about $225 a month for 10 years.