Reducing College Costs Is Crucial for Families

Graduation Girl

My latest article published at Oklahoma’s free-market think tank, The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs here.

I recently attended a lecture where a gentleman discussed how my kids could obtain a college degree by age 18 at a fraction of the cost of attending a traditional university. So, not only would they have an additional four years of earning potential, I might save up to $116,000 per child (as the estimated costs to attend a private college are around $33,000 per year).

I immediately started thinking how families might adjust their decision-making if they knew about this option when planning for their children’s futures. Because right now, there are certainly many problems with the traditional way of financing a college education and the corresponding results we’re seeing in the economy.

Consider: two-thirds of the class of 2011 hold student loans upon graduation, with the average borrower owing $26,600. Moreover, as Mitt Romney pointed out on the campaign trail last year, more than 50 percent of college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed. It’s clear that the higher education system is broken.

There are numerous reasons for this, of course, but one is administrative bloat. A 2010 Goldwater Institute study found that between 1993 and 2007, the number of full-time administrators per 100 students at the University of Oklahoma grew by 52 percent, while the number of employees engaged in teaching, research, or service only grew by 26 percent.

Fortunately, there are some things we can do as parents to help our children obtain a college degree without being beholden to the current failed system. As I mentioned, I had the pleasure of listening to the CEO of an organization which helps high-school students earn college credit for the courses they’re already taking through CLEP exams and community college courses. The high-school students then finishes earning the credit for their B.A. degree through an accredited college for the final 12 to 18 months of their high-school experience. In addition to the unbelievable savings that can be realized, this type of option, over time, could change behavior to the extent that it impacts family formation.

Few people disagree that children have become more and more costly since World War II. Outside of providing necessities, it is the cost of daycare and education that most heavily weighs on a married couple’s assessment of the financial impact of having additional children.

As OCPA research fellow Vance Fried has been pointing out, there are encouraging signs all around that college is about to become drastically cheaper—so much so that a mother may choose more time with her children over more paid hours at work because the financial stress of paying for her child’s education has been significantly lifted. Additionally, couples may choose to have an additional child because they can now afford the education for that child. A potential savings of $100,000 per child is nothing to scoff at—it could significantly alter fertility.

Let’s consider the tradeoffs that women must make. With 70 percent of women in the workforce, most women must choose which domestic and child-rearing duties can be outsourced and which duties simply cannot be provided given their finite amount of time to be divided between their job and domestic life. Ultimately, women have a finite amount of time to allocate between their job, a husband, children, and leisure. How women value these things is what has changed over the last 40 years, albeit partly because of the increasing cost of educating a child.

These choices or tradeoffs women have to make are never easy and are often accompanied with regret, as evidenced by even the most successful women in America. Three very successful women, two of whom are very much in the public eye and among the first women to reach the highest level of their professions, have said things that contradict their public image as liberals and feminists.

Take, for example, Katie Couric, who browbeat the former Alaska governor (and mother of five) Sarah Palin with respect to her foreign-policy acumen. Couric told Good Housekeeping last year: “I love being around my kids. I’m not a particularly solitary person … I like a big, chaotic household—noise, commotion, laughter! Sometimes I think I should have had six kids. Or I wish I’d had one [more] at 37, but I was busy. My career.”

Another public personality, and the first female Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, made this statement: “We are who we are and, in large part, who we are is dictated by our biology. I believe women can do everything. They just can’t do it all at the same time.”   There again is the mention of a woman’s tradeoff between excelling in her job versus rearing children.

Finally, Erin Callan, the former chief financial officer of Lehman Brothers, recently wrote an op-ed in The New York Times admitting the great regret she has with regards to pouring herself into her work at the expense of her marriage, which ended in divorce and zero children. “I have spent several years now living a different version of my life, where I try to apply my energy to my new husband, Anthony, and the people whom I love and care about,” she wrote. “But I can’t make up for lost time. Most important, although I now have stepchildren, I missed having a child of my own. I am 47 years old, and Anthony and I have been trying in vitro fertilization for several years. We are still hoping.”

There is discontent among women who have to sacrifice time with their family for their jobs—even at the very highest levels of success. Family finances have a mammoth impact on a married couple’s decision to have an additional child.

The significant decline in the cost of college, over the long run, might bridge the financial gap needed for married couples to increase fertility.

It’s Almost Easter: Let’s Look at What Jesus Had to Say About Mothers


Women have a finite amount of time and must choose how to allocate that time. With 75% percent of women now in the workforce, it is clear that women are choosing to allocate their time to their professional life instead of raising children. So, why is that a problem ?

Unfortunately, there are now too few productive young people (working) to support those over 65. This is a huge problem sometimes referred to as Demographic Winter. When boomers were children, the average number of children per family was 4. Now that families are defined differently, we must  look at the number of children per woman which is now 2.06 per woman (fertility rate). However, the number of children per all families is .90. From a public policy perspective, this drop in demand for children is clearly troubling.

Read across all American Catholic Churches this past Palm Sunday, look what Jesus had to say about women and fertility. Just like the popular bumper sticker
No Farms–No Food we have
No People–No Human Race because women make little people.

From Luke 22:14—23:56

As they led him away
they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian,
who was coming in from the country;
and after laying the cross on him,
they made him carry it behind Jesus.
A large crowd of people followed Jesus,
including many women who mourned and lamented him.
Jesus turned to them and said,
“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me;
weep instead for yourselves and for your children
for indeed, the days are coming when people will say,
‘Blessed are the barren,
the wombs that never bore
and the breasts that never nursed.’
At that time people will say to the mountains,
‘Fall upon us!’
and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’
for if these things are done when the wood is green
what will happen when it is dry?”

If You’re Truly Believe in Liberty, Should You Send Your Children to Public School ?

Scott on Frog_Colorado

The educational establishment is one of the major drivers behind the frequency with which government comes and asks for more of our earnings and the increasing number of laws and regulations which erode our freedoms.

We all know that increases in educational performance cannot be attributed to just increases in educational spending.  The data shows that we’ve reached the point of decreasing returns in the U.S. when it comes to education such that for every additional dollar spent on education, we are seeing decreases in performance in many geographic areas.  We all know where the good schools are–in the affluent neighborhoods where other factors in addition to money make a difference in students’ lives (like intact families, college-educated parents, etc.).

No one likes to say no to the “old” or to “children.”  So, our first problem is voters feel warm and fuzzy about voting for spending increases for the so-called” educational benefit of our children despite even plummeting performance.

Second–aside from educators–who always claim that they’ve squeezed every penny out of the budget this year–parents wiht children in the schools can’t say no to more school spending (literally, that was the quote in my local newspaper from our superintendent when asked about his $600k increase in the budget).

A parent is a voter.  No parent with children in the school wants to vote against a nicer school, more teachers, etc . A for-profit company would not keep dumping money into an entity that performs so poorly.  So, my question is, why do U.S. conservatives keep propping up a failing educational system ?

If we truly want to preserve our liberty and not keep giving government more and more of our tax dollars and our freedom, shouldn’t we pull our children out of this failing system ?  What are conservatives afraid of ?  Is the reliance on the public school at all cost the necessary evil to perpetuate the two-income family (mom and dad working outside the home).  I’m sure this will anger many but it seems logical to me.