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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Latest College Scam

college debt Pictures, Images and Photos

In the perfect world, my son would have graduated this May from Virginia Western with a Computer Science degree. Alas, our world is far from perfect, so it should have come as no surprise to me that it didn't happen. That darn Calculus 4 class has proven to be a thorn in his side, and after taking it twice and achieving D's both times, the boy has decided to scrap that plan.

When he first started on this quest during the first year in high school, his intention was to become a software developer. He studied on his own, practiced on his own, and enjoyed the field. Although he didn't really want to go to college, he knew potential employers would only look at him if he had a degree in computer science and he figured it would be a piece of cake to get it. Cut to college...

His first inkling that college is a scam came to him in his freshman year when he realized he'd have to take classes that were a waste of his time, had absolutely nothing to do with computers, and was really just a way for the college to make money by insisting students take them. I agreed with his thinking, yet still pushed him to get a degree. As the semesters progressed, the  mandatory classes had less and less to do with computer science, and the elective classes he had wanted to take became unavailable as there wasn't enough interest in them. Little by little, less and less appealed to him. His interest really took a nose-dive after discovering that most, if not all, software programming jobs had moved out of this country and into India. By the time Calculus 4 came around, twice, he decided he had enough.

Now, as part of our deal, I agreed to pay for his education, without him having to get student loans so he wouldn't be saddled with debt. In return, he had to get at least a C in every class and get the Computer Science Degree. If he got less than a C, he had to pay me back for the class, and if he dropped out of college, he had to pay me back for every class. So what to do, what to do? He already holds a part-time job and upon graduation he was supposed to go full-time. His company likes him, said he's one of their best workers and his going full-time was not contingent on getting a degree. So, in reality he could just go full-time and be done with school, just like his mother.

I've been working since I was 16. I have no degree. I never wanted a degree. I wanted to work. Period. And I did, and I still do. I've held many positions including secretary, administrative assistant, office manager, broadcast manager, vice-president programming, videotape editor, president, columnist and most recently, published author. Nope, didn't need a piece of paper for any of them. However, my son knows I wanted him to have what I never did, so after much weighing of pros and con (the con being pissing off mom) he decided he would continue with college, but change his major to Business, and he would pay for the rest of the classes himself. Sounds like a good plan to me.

So he started summer classes and already is pissed off. In order to get this degree, he now has to take more useless classes such as a basic computer one. It's a "joke" to him, but he's not laughing at the cost of the books and the latest college scam...buying an on-line "key." This "key" practice started last year with one or two classes. Besides buying the ridiculously expensive books, an additional fee of anywhere from $50-$100 has to be spent on the "key" which allows the student on-line access, to "drop-off" their assignments, tests, etc. It's mandatory and has squashed the ability to buy used books cheaply. The way VWCC has set it up it's a little cheaper to buy the package from their bookstore. Even if the student wants to rent the book instead of buying the new book, the "key" makes it cost more to go that route. No more Givens Books.

Last night he came home from the second class he's taking over the summer and surprise, surprise, it also requires the book and the purchase of a "key." He was ranting that the "key" company is the same company that sells the textbooks, and it's a total scam. Meanwhile, he's purchased books on Amazon for computers that have nothing to do with school. When I questioned him, his response was, "Just because I'm not going for the piece of paper, it doesn't mean I no longer have interest in computers." I have a feeling the only piece of paper we're going to be seeing in this house is the invoices he sends his future customers. And don't tell him, but I'm fine with that...


  1. The bright spot here is that your son dodged the bullet of the college loan disaster. I'm always encountering people who have that college loan burden following them around, and it really messes up their lives.
    My own kid is a VOIP engineer with three kids, a nice house, and a bright future. Never set foot in a college except to sell them something.
    There's a real shortage of people who actually know how to do things. Smaller companies are very often willing to forego the initials behind the name and the piece of paper for demonstrable skills.

  2. Exactly Trudy! Real life experience trumps a piece of paper any time. Glad to hear about your son...good job!