Thursday, July 1, 2021

Watching Children Grow Up -- There's an Appointed Time for Everything

Recently, my 16-year-old stepdaughter attended two week-long Catholic retreats where she was able to dive deeper into her faith. These opportunities were located at two separate college campuses, both of which are in consideration for her to attend after high school. As my wife and I toured the campuses with her, and got her set up into a dorm room -- which was each retreat's accommodations -- we both felt the emotions of what is to occur in just a couple of short years. It will be then that we'll take her to a campus and know that she's an adult... blazing her path in life. I must admit, I got a bit choked up thinking about it as I watched her strolling across each campus.

As we read in Ecclesiastes chapter 3, there is an appointed time for everything... including letting children step out on their own. It's an emotional experience for any parent -- a combination of joy for watching their child become an adult, and sorrow for knowing that the child will not be around as much. I felt a twinge of that as I walked around those college campuses last month.

My wife, Kelley, and I were married in 2018 after first meeting in 2015. Between us, we have eight children -- six of whom are adults. The two daughters remaining at home are ages 13 and 16. So, we're only five years away from feeling the "empty nest." I'm praying that those 1,800 days go slowly! All of our adult children have pursued, or are currently pursuing, higher education in one form or another. Several have earned university degrees and are on their career path. It's truly a blessing to watch children mature into adulthood and take ownership of their future.

Its been almost 40 years since I packed my bags and headed off to the University of Montana, where I earned two Bachelor of Arts degrees after five years on campus. I paid out-of-state tuition (having gone there from Alaska) and my total bill for two degrees was around $25,000 -- and yes, that included tuition, room, board, and books. I was curious what it would cost me today to attend the same university and pay out-of-state tuition. As you can image, the cost has certainly gone up! If I wanted to earn two B.A. degrees now from the University of Montana, I would pay approximately $192,000 for five years of tuition, room, board, and books as an out-of-state resident. That's about $167,000 more than what I paid back in the 1980's.

According to, the average cost of college in the United States is $35,720 per student, per year. The cost has tripled in the past 20 years, with an annual growth rate of nearly 7 percent. The average in-state student attending a public four-year institution spends $25,615 for one academic year. The average cost of in-state tuition alone is $9,580; out-of-state tuition averages $27,437. The average traditional private university student spends a total of $53,949 per academic year, $37,200 of it on tuition and fees. Experts say that taking into account student loan interest and loss of income, the ultimate cost of a bachelor’s degree may exceed $400,000. And to think that I received two B.A. degrees for around $25,000!

Across the U.S., college enrollment numbers are down -- particularly in community colleges. This cannot simply be blamed on the Coronavirus pandemic. The overall cost of higher education is certainly a factor that more young people are taking a hard look at before applying to colleges and universities. The skyrocketing cost of college has created a $1.7 trillion dollar student debt crisis, leaving many prospective students questioning the worth of a college degree. Unless scholarships and grants can be obtained to help decrease the final bill, the cost of college is simply getting out of reach for many.

In just a couple of years, Kelley and I will taking an 18-year-old to her college campus -- an intelligent young lady who has a bright future ahead of her. Three short years after that, we'll be doing it again... for the final time. May the sands of time fall slowly over the next five years!

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

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