Odds And Objectives

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My roommate needs a second opinion. She has an older brother who’s been struggling to lead what people would consider a normal life. He barely finished high school and dropped out of his community college after the first year. As a result, he’s never had a stable job. The family has tried multiple times to intervene and try to help, but he’s pretty resistant.


Apparently, while my roommate was at home over the holidays, her dad proposed that the family pool their tax reimbursements and try to help her brother pay for school. It’s definitely a noble idea, but my roommate is skeptical about it, because he didn’t finish the first time around.


Everyone knows that it’ll probably be fairly expensive, too. She’s trying to decide if it’s worth the risk. And if so, what are options or examples that she can use to try to convince her brother?


Many people are often surprised to learn that the US has one of the highest college dropout rates of any developed country being tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The rampant inefficiencies within the American education system are comparable only to those in the healthcare system. Former students without degrees yet saddled with crippling debt and taxpayers are the two groups paying the highest price. The globalized economy has become increasingly unforgiving to those without a higher education and the college degree is often considered the bare minimum.


Your roommate’s concerns are definitely well-warranted. Unfortunately, the statistics for those who drop out of college and try to return aren’t very promising. Millions of hopeful students attempting to turn a new leaf eventually give up all over again. There’s a variety of reasons that undermine these otherwise valiant efforts. Much of them boil down to schools that aren’t designed or operated to realistically address students’ needs. Some of the worst offenders make national headlines. One such example is ITT Technical Institute, which was eventually dismantled and liquidated for scamming its students out of millions.


The baseline should be a candid conversation with her brother about his career goals. It’s impossible to make any meaningful suggestions without understanding his perspective on returning to school. More importantly, you can rest assured that he’s destined to failure if he, in fact, has little or no desire to resume his studies. It’s also crucial to understand that his decisions don’t have to be mutually exclusive. If he specifies that his long-term goal is to become a high school teacher, which would mean studying the arts and humanities. In that case, your roommate might suggest Linfield College for liberal arts.


That’s a relatively straightforward example. Her brother could have economic circumstances that prevent him from financing a traditional college degree. On the other hand, he could simply wish to pursue a vocational career path while working part-time. Perhaps the idea of becoming a certified mechanic is more appealing than teaching impressionable young minds. In that case, attending NYADI for an ASE automotive certification would make much more sense.


The takeaway is to align his academic choices with his career goals. As an adult learner, there’s no reason to return to college simply because it remains incomplete, especially if finishing doesn’t stand to benefit him. Ensuring that he’s legitimately committed to his choice is the fundamental first step. That’s also the only realistic way to mitigate the risk of spending money on another unfinished education.


“The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely to be the one who dropped it.” — Lou Holtz