Each year the end of summer marks a promising new season in which we and our children start afresh, emotionally and educationally. The air begins to get crisp just as our kids embrace another school year in shiny new sneakers, ready to tackle the next level of math, vocabulary, and history.
Education, I believe, is more critical than ever, especially given our current economy. It used to be, a few decades ago, that a high school education was sufficient in the work force. We as parents now know that is no longer the case; a college degree, and more advanced degrees, afford graduates significantly more opportunity than is typically available to those with only a high school diploma.
According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, people who hold a bachelor’s degree have an 85% higher lifetime earning capacity than people with only a high school education.
With an undergraduate college degree, a person will average lifetime – that is, from age 25 to 64 years – earnings of $2.8 million. With a high school degree, that average plummets to $1.5 million.
The Center for American Progress reports that its studies indicate that “almost two-thirds of jobs in our economy will [soon] require some type of education or training beyond high school.”
Paying for college, nevertheless, remains a critical stumbling block for many . . . if not most.
The inflation-adjusted median American family has experienced essentially stagnant income over the past three decades while the cost at private nonprofit four-year colleges has jumped by more than 150 percent since 1982 – and by more than 250 percent at four-year public institutions.
Meanwhile, the cost of attending a public four-year college this year is estimated at $27,210 nationally – and expected to jump to $33,330 before today’s freshmen graduate. At the same time, private four-year colleges average $58,640 nationally this year, jumping to $71,830 at the time today’s freshmen are seniors.
Fortunately, increased college tuition is paralleled by increased financial aid options. There are many to investigate.
· Local options – Local chapters of such organizations as the American Legion, Rotary Club, and Boosters offer scholarships for high school students. These organizations are often overlooked yet are a great resource as they have far less competition than national awards.
· Federal options – The federal government provides more financial aid to college-students than any other resource.
· Merit-based options - Scholarships are awarded based on academic or athletic abilities, as well as categories such as ethnicity, religious affiliation, club membership, interests, talent or career plans.
· Corporate options – Each year, corporations ranging from department store chains to pharmaceutical firms offer financial aid to thousands of college-bound students. Often, organizations will award children of employees with scholarships or grants.
And there is at least one other option that may be the right choice for some: The National Guard and our nation’s military academies. In each case, a student obtains significant financial benefits in exchange for future military service.
During this time of transition, it might be a good idea to reflect on the value our society places on education and how it has helped keep our nation moving forward. Today, advanced education is more critical than ever, both in terms of the resulting economic opportunities for our children but also to continue to ensure our well-being for generations to come.
Mark Seruya is a Brooklyn resident and Managing Director and Senior Portfolio Manager with the Global Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management in Manhattan. He can be reached at 212-903-7699.