Tuesday, June 25, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 16

Santa Maria Sun / Humor

The following article was posted on March 11th, 2015, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 16, Issue 1 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 16, Issue 1

The Cost of College


My son is at that magical age where he is now looking at colleges. It is a special time for a teenager when he can dream big, imagine his life at a great school, become anything he wants, and possibly change the world for the better. This is a beautiful dream. It’s a positive look at the future, and I want to support it for my son. Too bad his mother and I forgot to save money for college.

My wife and I ignored the future costs of college like a high school girl tries to ignore an unwanted pregnancy. Regardless of our ability to act like it wasn’t ever going to really happen, the clock was ticking. Now the time has finally come, high school is ending, and unfortunately for our finances, our son did very well in high school. So, of course, he wants to change the world using an Ivy League education. I just want to change the channel.

Our son inherited his intelligence from his mother, the sharp one. She is smart and thus he is smart. I am just the labor force at our house. If my son was a dunce like his dad, the college answer would be an easy one because I would give him three choices:

1) The United States Armed Forces (wear tan because you’re going to the desert),

2) Bun-Burger-Bun at a McJob (minimum wage will not provide you a BMW), or

3) Community College (affordable, yet the place where dreams are stomped on by soul crushing reality and hopelessness). I can say this about community college because I went to a bunch of them before transferring to a bunch of four-year colleges.

My son is of the opinion that he is better than his old man, and thus, he is too good for community college. That translates to “Dad, get your wallet out because I’m too intelligent to live at home, save tens of thousands on my college education, and I require that you pay 40-grand a year so I can have a $2 bumper sticker on my car that says UC Berkeley.” Looks like it’s time for daddy to sell the Corvette.

Before we could decide which college campus I would be giving the title of my sports car to, we needed to travel around the great state of California and see what the different campuses had to offer. What we found was housing for three kids to a dorm room (in a space that was originally designed for two occupants), mandatory meal plans (which my picky eater son won’t use), and stadium classrooms for 300 kids per instructor for freshmen taking general education classes. All this for the low, low price of one kidney and a used Corvette just to cover a single year of college.

My wife and I saw a lot of things that concerned us about college life for our son. The first, of course, being that college prices have skyrocketed in the last 10 years, and my wife and I are still paying off our own student loans. We have tried to explain to our son that it doesn’t make sense to get a $100,000 in debt (at 6.8 percent interest) to become a school teacher and earn $52,000 a year. Even though he is very smart, he just can’t comprehend the weight of that kind of debt. All he wants to do is go to school and enjoy the college experience. All we want for him is to get an education that will open doors for him in the future, without enormous debt, which could close many doors.

My son didn’t care about our concerns. All he cared about was what college he could go to. His reasons for liking different campuses had nothing to do with education, they were more about culture. While in Berkeley he saw a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk panhandling and reading J. D. Salinger, “Dad, even the homeless people are smart here.” When we toured Cal Poly he saw kids making surfboards, “Dad, they have a surfboard shaping class here.” As we continued our statewide tour I started to notice that how my son felt about a particular college was in direct correlation to the amount of bikini clad girls he saw sunbathing near the dorms. “Dad, I like this school 
a lot.”

“You like it because they have a good political science program?”

“Uh, I don’t know. I just like the vibe here.”

“I’m sure you do.”

It was so obvious that all he cared about was the hotness level of the coeds at a particular campus that I considered giving him a fake tour of the local community college, where before we arrived I would pay a local strip club to have girls in bikinis near the administration building, sunbathing and reading books by Tolstoy and Nietzsche. Even if I paid the girls $1,000 for 15 minutes of work, junior college would still save me tens of thousands of dollars. For obvious reason, regarding me giving strippers money, my wife forbade the plan.

Then the official letter came in the mail. Cal Poly had accepted my son. You would think I would be proud of his accomplishment as Cal Poly is not an easy school to get into. However, the problem was that Cal Poly and the family lineage my son comes from don’t have a very good track record. My son’s father, his mother, his uncle, and his grandfather all “attended” Cal Poly, yet none of us “graduated” from Cal Poly. We all became fairly good surfers, but none of us earned a degree with the words California Polytechnic on it.

Regardless of the cost of the school or our family’s dismal track record at Cal Poly, I couldn’t tell my son not to go. The Central Coast is a beautiful place, and Cal Poly is the exact spot where I met my wife, whom I love. I was walking by the dorms, and she was sunbathing in a bikini.


All Rob learned in college was how to pay for campus parking tickets. If you enjoy Rob’s storytelling check out his novel Cadet Blues available on Amazon.com.

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