A friend of mine recently had her first baby. She shared with me, that within just a few weeks of the birth she had dutifully opened a “College Savings Account” for her little one. Everyone present seemed to acknowledge that this was a very responsible thing to do. In fact, many other parents were kicking themselves for not doing that exact same thing, and vowed to open one immediately. After all, college is very expense and will probably be several hundred times more expense by the time our children graduate. Everyone seemed to agree that it is parents’ solemn duty to save as much money as possible so that one day they will be able to sent their children off to a “fine institution of higher learning.” I do not want to discredit their good intentions, but I feel strongly that they are partially misguided.
There is so much focus on the future, and especially college, that the present is often neglected. I think the saying goes, “It’s not how you start, but how you finish,” but I say, “How you start, will determine how you finish!” Parents who focus on early childhood education, will nearly always finish ahead of those who wait for the future. Putting greater efforts into early education is a far better investment of time and money than the most generous interest bearing “college savings account.” That is because it is better to get the ball rolling early, than to kick it really hard at the end.
The Case for Early Childhood Education
To begin with, early education is far more affordable than “higher education.” For under fifty dollars, any parent can purchase a comprehensive Preschool or Kindergarten Curriculum. At no expense, except a little time, any mother can easy teach their two or three-year-old to read, write and do basic arithmetic at home. Or, if the parent does not have the time, the next best option is to pay a private tutor a few hundred dollars a month. In either case, the cost is pennies compared to the outrageous cost of college, while the advantages are huge! By giving your children a head start, you put them on a fast track. If they go to school, instead of homeschooling, the teachers will quickly realize that your children are advanced and continue to spur them on. Your children, having been properly prepared, are more likely to excel at school and, are therefore more likely to enjoy their studies. By helping your children excel early, they are far more likely to excel later on.
“OK, that is all fine, but eventually those children will grow up and go to college, and then what?” I imagine some parents protesting. On this, I have three points:
First, if parents desire their children to go to college, they should know that children that excel in grade school and high school are far more likely to go to college. Also, since the purpose of college is not merely getting there, but graduating, students who are prepared for college are far more likely to finish. Students who begin college unprepared are more likely to struggle, repeat expensive classes and dropout.
My second point, regards paying for college. College is much less expensive for students that excel early In fact, hundreds of millions are given away every year in scholarships, not to the parents that saved the most, but to the students who are the most prepared! 20 years from now college costs may be $80,000 or more for a 4-year degree. Even if a parent can realistically save that amount of money for ALL their children, it must be a bit bewildering to pay when other parents have children attending at no cost because their children earned full-ride academic scholarships. I am not saying, “don’t save.” I am simply saying it might be a better investment to put at least a portion of that money toward their primary education. As extra incentive, you could offer a portion of the “college fund” as a reward – directly proportionate to the scholarship amount your children earn on their own. On the other hand, imagine the cost of sending unprepared children off to college and watching them repeat classes or even dropout.
Finally, there is a good chance your children will decide against college altogether. They may choose to join the military, start a business, or go straight to work. If this ends up being the case, won’t you be glad that you put your energies into providing a “high quality” early education? And what about the college fund? Well you could offer a portion of the money to help fund your children’s business, work or first home. After all, the money was set aside to give them a “start,” and I can think no better education than going to work or starting a business.
So, while I am definitely not condemning “college funds,” I do want to encourage parents to invest more into early and primary education. The money is better spent and the benefits are tremendous.