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May 20 2014

Should You Stay Home for College?

Abby Schachter

As Patrice wrote here, college grads are essentially penniless in part because of college loan debt. She points out that, according to recent studies:

“Overall, median total indebtness is $137,000 for college graduates with student loans compared to only $73,250 for their counterparts with no college debt….[And there’s] the increasing joblessness that this year’s graduates are facing as 4 out 5 in the Class of 2014 have no job offer as they cross the graduation line. While it’s great that they can expect to have high incomes down the road, the economy has stretched the road out even farther than before.

The college degree is worth it, research shows, but the debts associated with a degree have become “a millstone around the necks of young generations,” writes Patrice, who also recommends that we start a public conversation about this problem.

Here’s a modest proposal to get the discussion going: College students should stay home.

Not stay out of college, just don’t opt for living on campus. Stay in your bedroom at home rather than getting a dorm room on campus. There are three main reasons:

Living at home will lower your debt-burden

According to lending giant Sallie Mae's annual report "How America Pays for College," nearly two-thirds of students chose to live at home or with relatives as a cost-saving measure in the 2012-2013 academic year.

That's because room and board fees can add up. Along with hikes in tuition and fees, the cost of living on campus jumped more than 10 percent in the past five years at private, four-year colleges to an average of $10,462, according to the nonprofit College Board. At public schools, the increase was greater, nearly 15 percent to an average of $9,205.

Better to stay home until you graduate than go off to college and have to slink back home four years later when you have huge debt and are looking for your first job.

Less Coming Home Drunk

Christine B. Whelan, a sociologist in the School of Human Ecology at the University of Wisconsin, thinks this it is worth considering how students living under their parents’ roofs might have positive results on their interpersonal relationships.

“Social norms would probably dissuade most college students from rocking up to their parents’ house drunk with a stranger at 2am so in that respect, yes, living at home might curtail the hook-up culture,” Whelan says. There are potential negatives however. “If your potential partner lived on campus that room might seem more desirable…. It might also encourage drunk driving. And part of college is about living on your own and learning how to be responsible for yourself,” she explains.

Whelan says that about half of college relationships begin with a hook-up. She also tells me that while most college students would like to forge interpersonal connections half of college students – men and women alike – expect nothing (no communication, no nothing) after a hook-up. So what if your roommates were mom and dad? “If you had to bring the person home to meet the parents, that does add an extra level of seriousness to the relationship – and could greatly delay first sexual contact,” Whelan said thoughtfully. Considering the flawed effort by the Obama administration to deal with sexual assault on campus (read more here, here and here), perhaps adding “an extra level of seriousness” is warranted. 

Safe Homes, Far-Ranging Intellects

The past few weeks we’ve seen the ideological temper tantrums among college students repeated over and over again. One after another, individuals who were supposed to speak at campus graduations were disinvited because something they had said was offensive to some group or other. This trend of close-mindedness is even more troubling when you consider the possibility that some students jump on the protest bandwagon, in order to find a community on campus. Herd thinking can more easily flourish, it seems, among those who don’t otherwise have a group to which they can attach themselves and with whom they feel a part.

Wouldn’t some of this problem be mitigated if more people lived with their families? As an undergraduate, I went to school at McGill’s downtown campus in Montreal. But like most of those with whom I’d gone to high school, we all went home at the end of the day to our family home. Campus was certainly a place to test yourself and your ideas against the ideological fights that happened in the classrooms, cafeterias and local bars (Quebec drinking age is 18). But many of us knew that we would be heading home at the end of the night and perhaps we had less need of gloaming on to momentary ideological fashions because of that.  

 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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