A Bite of This Apple Could Crush You!
You have been offered an athletic scholarship, maybe several. They are shiny and glitzy, like an apple offered to a princess. They make you swell with pride. Your dream is close at hand.
Wait before you reach for the shiny apple! We know from childhood fairy tales we should carefully examine the apple before taking a bite.
Sometimes there are issues athletes and their parents would rather ignore in the quest for the vaunted athletic scholarship and prized roster spot at your dream college.
Here are three questions you should consider as a family before signing on the dotted line:
- How much is a college education worth?
- How much is it worth to spend four more years playing the sport you love?
- How much is it worth to choose the school where the coach wants you, compared to the school you can afford?
Many of you parents have been chasing the dream of the athletic scholarship for years. Some of your children will receive full ride scholarships, but they are few and far between. If you were offered a full ride, congratulations! You can skip the rest of this article.
For the rest of you this article may be unsettling after all the years of chasing the shiny athletic scholarship.
We are going to begin by looking forward. Imagine your child’s situation after college graduation. The purpose is to help your family have the real conversation, “How much are a college education and playing college athletics worth?”
First, we are going to dive in with some facts. Don’t breeze over them. Look into your child’s future, as you see them beginning their career and family.
Price Waterhouse Coopers and George Washington University did an in depth study on young adults, 23 to 35 years in age, and created the Millennials & Financial Literacy
Report. Here are some of their findings:
- 81% of college educated millennials carry at least one long term debt.
- 54% are worried about their ability to repay their student loans.
- 34% are very unsatisfied with their current financial situation.
- Nearly 50% said they could not scrape together $2,000 in an emergency.
- Nearly 30% are overdrawing on their bank accounts.
- 53% have carried a credit card balance in the past 12 months.
- 28% of millennials who have a college degree have used services such as payday loans, pawnshops, auto title loans, tax refund advances and rent-to-own products.
Let those figures soak in. How do young men and women graduating from college end up struggling to survive financially? Let’s jump back to the time when the financial aid packages were arriving and the excitement was at a fever pitch.
With each financial aid package a wondrous sleight of hand takes place. It does not matter if the schools you are looking at are $10,000 or $45,000 a year. When you receive the financial aid packages, there is a long list of figures which will tell you definitively, “You can afford our school!”
The colleges send a slick package that looks something like this.
- Achievement scholarship $6,000
- University grant $2,000
- Federal Pell Grant $5,500
- Federal SEOG Grant $2,000
- State Grant $2,000
- Athletic Scholarship $4,000
- Total Gift Aid $21,500
- Stafford Subsidized Loan $3,500
- Stafford Unsubsidized Loan $2,000
- Parent Plus Loan $16,000
- Federal College Work Study $2,000
- (this is a minimum wage job, and one you are not guaranteed.)
- Total Self-Help Aid $23,500
Side note: College tuition is currently climbing 4-5% per year. This translates into $500 per $10,000 of tuition price. A $40,000 school will be $42,000 next year and approximately $46,000 in year four.
These numbers vary depending upon the college’s sticker price and what they believe your family can contribute. I just gave your son/daughter a financial aid package of $45,000. The award letter is clear, you can afford that education. And what’s better, it won’t cost a penny from your pocket. How can you refuse FREE education?
Now looking from the other side: Today’s college graduate has an average student debt of $35,000. (Source: The World and Everything in It, Christina Darnell,“Money Trouble for Millennials”.) College grads are looking back in horror as they realize they were duped. The college was not handing out buckets of free money. That $23,500 of “Self-Help aid” in my hypothetical example is $21, 500 of debt that you or your child will pay back every penny of, with interest. This is just the freshmen year. There are three or four more years to come.
Easy money during college becomes crushing debt afterword.
Even more sobering, the statistics say that fewer than 50% of those who enter college will graduate in four years and just over 50% will graduate in 6 years. I know you’re thinking, “Not my child.” But statistics don’t lie, it’s true for about half of your children.
Imagine being in the 50% who have no college diploma, yet do have student debt. Here are other uncomfortable conversations you should have with your child now, especially if they are only thinking of athletic competition:
- Is college the right choice for you?
- Is college the right choice for you now?
- Should you attend a Junior College first?
Matt Bell of SoundMindInvesting.com says, “The use of debt has become the assumed, unquestioned way of paying for college.” I believe it is our job as parents to protect and advise our 18 year olds. Don’t be afraid to have the difficult conversations, infusing realism into what can feel like a dream world when your athlete is chased by college coaches for their teams.
All of this doesn’t mean you can’t afford private schools or state schools for that matter. It does mean, do your research and understand what exactly is being offered and how much you will actually have to pay now and repay later.
Let’s jump back to the post college side of life for your child. Matt Bell offers these helpful questions.
- What is the average salary for your intended career?
- Project out how much money you will owe in student loans if you go to this school?
- What would the monthly payment be when you graduate? For how long?
- How does that payment fit into a budget for your working self?
Here are a few more sobering statistics from Matt Bell. Millennials are sacrificing their retirement because their situations are so dire.
- Only 36% have a retirement account.
- Of those with a retirement account, 17% took a loan from their account.
Millennials are often under the impression they can have whatever they want and whenever they want it. Sometimes it is true, but often in life outside your home they will need to make hard choices. Have the uncomfortable conversations now to make sure they are not crushed by taking a bite of the shiny apple without first examining the ramifications of their choices.
I leave you with Brenn Hill’s country song, “Debt”.
Here are a few bonus resources for you to look into which I believe would be beneficial to your family discussions.
- Matt Bell at soundmindinvesting.com has several great articles about paying for college. https://www.soundmindinvesting.com/articles/college
- “Is College Worth it?”, a book by former U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett. Here are a couple quotes from that book.
“Two thirds of people who go to four-year colleges right out of high school should do something else.”
“Rather than simply swallowing the conventional wisdom and following the conventional path, more students need to make realistic assessments of their abilities and finances and then decide the best path for themselves.”
- This is a great article about the worth of college in today’s world. https://www.soundmindinvesting.com/articles/view/is-a-college-education-still-worth-the-investment By Joseph Slife
- Another fantastic resource is http://www.daveramsey.com/school/college
This is a curriculum to help your child understand personal finances and debt free living. It is focused on college age.
- “Money Trouble for Millennials” by Christina Darnell of The World and Everything in it is the impetus for my article. Many of the links and stats are A quote from this article: “The problem is Millennials owe a lot, but they don’t know a lot”.
Next, take a look at Walking the Tightrope of College Financial Aid.
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