Friday, June 7, 2013

Is College Worth It? by William J. Bennett and David Wilezol

I often find myself reading the same type of books, Christian non-fiction. Occasionally, I will read a biographical book. Every now and then I might grab a fiction book. When I discover I am in this rut, I try to grab a book that is outside of my normal circle. Is College Worth It? by Bennett and Wilezol is one of those books. 

I have been trying to think of how I would summarize this book. One approach is to give the author's summary. Bennett and Wilezol answer their own book title with a few additional questions:

"Is this product worth the risk of thousands of dollars of debt? Is this worth investing four years of my life and finances?" (156)

That is helpful. Is your college piece of paper going to pay for itself in the future? What is the return on your investment of your education? This book attempts to point out the positives and negatives of the current higher education situation going on in America.  

This sort of approach of summarizing the book doesn't speak to how it impacted me. As I read this book, these thoughts kept going through my mind: "This book is going to affect the way I give advice to  my kids about their college choices." I hope that sounds like a good endorsement, for it is meant to be. You see, I read this book through two different lenses. 

For one, I have lived the "higher education is very important" mentality. I finished my bachelors degree in 1997 from Moody Bible Institute. It might not be Harvard or Stanford, but it is to this day a difficult school to get into. Then after several years, I finished my Masters of Arts and Religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Trinity is one of the more recognized seminaries in the country (and at the time, one of the most expensive). Then, in 2010, I completed my Doctorate of Ministries degree from Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, PA. I have spent well over a decade in higher education. I have also spent a whole lot of money towards that education.

The second lens that impacted me is that I now have a son entering 8th grade. In just five years, we will be dealing with the question of college for him. That scares me tremendously. It is hard for me to think of him as old enough to go to college. But what schools will I direct him towards? What kind of major will he pursue? How much money should he borrow? Those are many of the thoughts that impacted me as I read this book.

Bennett & Wilezol do a wonderful job showing how "The Borrowing Binge" for college just might well be the next bubble to burst. There seems to be no accountability and so the government or other institutions loan out as much money as someone needs for school. The schools realize this and so they increase their costs because they know people will simply get more loans. On and on it has gone the last couple decades. It has created a financial monster for our nation.

If you want to find out what schools they say are can't miss (don't fear taking loans to go to these schools) or what majors will provide the best jobs in the future years, you are going to have to purchase the book. In the end, they are simply trying to help people make wiser decisions when it comes to college and money.
"Is this learning environment worth the investment of $50,000, $100,000, or $200,000? Consumers make highly informed decisions when they're buying a home: Is the neighborhood safe? Are the schools good? Where are home prices headed for this area? Can I get a better deal somewhere else? If students and parents are investing almost as much money into a college education as a home, they should make equally informed and careful decisions." (159-160).
If you are close to making a decision about college for yourself or your children, I would encourage you to take a closer look at this book. The only negative thing about this book is that I assumed that since a Christian publisher published this book, it would contain more insight on these issues from a Christian perspective. Other than a small section on some private Christian colleges, that seemed to be lacking.

I received a copy of Is College Worth It? by Bennett and Wilezol from Thomas Nelson for a review.

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