Gerding: Since when do parents owe their kids educational ‘free ride’

If we don’t have enough to be worried about in these current challenging economic times, we parents are being constantly harassed by banks to start saving for our children’s post-secondary educations.

If we don’t have enough to be worried about in these current challenging economic times, we parents are being constantly harassed by banks to start saving for our children’s post-secondary educations.

Apparently, parents today are running out of time in giving our money to the banks to benefit our kids down the road.

According to a TD Canada Trust 2011 Education and Finances Survey, 45 per cent of parents who have children eligible to start attending a post-secondary institution this fall haven’t started saving yet.

The survey found only 12 per cent of parents plan to cover their child’s full post-secondary ride; another third will cover the essentials—tuition, books, rent—but expect their children to pay for everything else.

I have a hard time understanding this save-for-your-kids post-secondary education mentality, probably because my parents weren’t able to give me a full ride. But that personal prejudice aside, I do see the importance of a post-secondary education, university or college, for expanding your child’s opportunities in life. I just think if it involves some adversity, the biggest factor being the increasing cost, that’s not always a bad thing, that an education, like most things in life, have more meaning when they are earned rather than given.

It’s a tremendous thing for Kelowna to be home to the UBCO campus and the expanded programs at Okanagan College. It allows a student to live at home, work part-time in our tourism based economy and continue in school.

Unless I win the lottery, my kids, should they opt to go that route, will have the opportunity to live rent-free at home and get a quality education or learn a career skill to carry them forward in life. But this idea that I, as a parent, should pay for all their costs to reach this goal—I have trouble with that one.

It dates back to my years working at UBC in Vancouver after I graduated from high school. I worked with and met other UBC students during those years, and was exposed to the university lifestyle of the Point Grey campus.

I met people who were full-time students, who loved the lifestyle of working in the summer and going to class in the fall and winter with no clear degree goal in mind.  Professional students we used to call them back then.

I also came to realize the folly of feeling the need to enrol in university right out of high school if at that time you didn’t have a clear career or degree purpose in mind.

Go out in the real world and find out how tough things are for people with a limited education, and the incentive for pursuing a post-secondary education suddenly becomes more valued.

Kelowna may yet become known as a university town as UBCO continues to expand. For those of us who live here, it presents a great opportunity for our kids in the future to expand their education without leaving home.

Regardless of what the banks say, I think parents should be happy to settle for that, and so should their kids.



Barry Gerding is the managing editor of the Kelowna Capital News.



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