The Carr Report: Put your thinking cap on, Joe College

Congratulations are in order for this year’s high school graduating class. Graduation from high school is a milestone in everyone’s life.  This completes your general education from kindergarten in grade school to senior in high school.  All of us who finished high school can recall the joy we experienced walking across the stage to receive our diploma. We remember the genuine friendships we developed and the teachers who taught and encouraged us. I want to encourage all those who are graduating this year to take this opportunity and enjoy it to the fullest. Have a blast at your prom, have fun at your graduation party and enjoy your final summer as a high school student. Last but not least, I want to welcome this year’s graduating class to “The Real World.” You’re about to find out this “adulting thing” is both serious and expensive!

Transitioning from high school to “The Real World” is one of the most exciting yet daunting journeys you will ever take. You will get an opportunity to meet new people, learn new cultures, and get exposed to new environments. At the same time you will experience moments of being homesick and missing friends, family and loved ones. This will be a period of your life where you will see yourself grow physically, mentally, and spiritually.  

The decisions you make after graduating from high school will shape the course of your life as an adult. Many students will join the armed forces, many will enter the job market, and others will go on to college. There is a certain level of discipline instilled in young adults who join the armed forces and young adults who enter the workforce.  For many young adults who go on to college, this marks the first time they will be exposed to so much freedom.  No parents, employers, or drill sergeants will be responsible for overseeing and disciplining them to ensure certain required assignments and duties are being fulfilled.  This often leads to new college students being victim to many of the distractions that surface on college campuses such as parties, sex, drugs and alcohol, among other things. As the old saying goes, “You can lead a child to college but you can’t make them think!” Do you have the mental fortitude and dedication to withstand the various challenges you will face and earn your college degree?

Information was, is and will always be the #1 selling commodity in the world.  For most students, high school represents the last time they will ever receive information for FREE.  In today’s society a college education is needed to get your foot in the door of most well-established companies who pay a decent wage. A college education is very expensive and should be taken seriously. This is not the place to take certain classes because you have a friend who is taking that particular class or wonder about aimlessly your first two or three years not fully understanding what it is you want to do as an adult. The price of higher education is too expensive. 

Higher education prices vary with community colleges averaging $4,000 per year, state universities averaging $24,000 per year (in state) $29,000 per year (out of state), Christian colleges averaging $40,000 per year and private universities averaging $60,000 per year. College tuition prices continue to rise each year. What you pay in year 2 of college will be more expensive than what you paid in year 1 of college. Year 3 of college will be more expensive than what you paid in year 2 of college. Year 4 of college will be more expensive than what you paid for year 3 of college. The cost of higher education gets higher and higher every year. But starting salaries after you graduate from college remains stagnant. Go figure!

College expenses go beyond tuition, books, and room and board.  College students are bundled down with the expense of cell phone bills, credit card bills, school supplies, and personal necessities. The cost of college alone should warrant students to self-impose the discipline and focus that will be required to obtain a college degree. Most students leave college with the burden of student loan and credit card debt. College students pay for school to get a job to pay for school:  Nearly 45 million people have student loan debt with a total balance of approximately $1.7 trillion. Whether you finish college or not, you will be responsible to pay back your various loans. Wouldn’t it make sense to have something such as a college degree to justify the expenses you accumulated in college?

Below are some college guardrails to follow. These guardrails will help you graduate from college without you and your parents going up to your “college cap” deep in debt.

  • College Guardrail: Pick a college based on your affordability, not the school’s popularity. Think about it, have you ever asked your teacher, barber, hair stylist, nurse, doctor, lawyer, or accountant, where they earned their degree? Probably not!! You just want to ensure they’re qualified and capable of getting the job done. Getting the qualifications and necessary skills is what’s important—not what school you graduated from.
  • Only use financial aid to help pay for college—not pay for college and lifestyle! You don’t want to be paying for spring break 20 years from now!
  • Total student loan debt should not equal more than your projected first year’s salary!
  • Avoid private student loan lenders. Interest rates are higher when compared to federal student loans. Secondly, private student loan lenders are not as merciful as federal student loans when life throws you a curveball.
  • Stay home and commute to college or go to college online. Commuting to and from school can cut college costs in half.
  • Consider community college for your first two years of college. The cost of community college is reasonable and affordable especially if you commute to school.

At all costs, you want to avoid or minimize student loan debt.

While many people view their college years as preparation for their future career,  others are more interested in the party scene. Understand that you are responsible for you. Be sure that you learn to balance fun time with study time.

Good luck to the Class of 2024 as you embark on your journey to fulfill your purpose in life.

(Damon Carr, Money Coach can be reached @ 412-216-1013 or visit his website @



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