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Bluffton, OH 45817

July 2019 - College VS Trade School VS Workforce

It was always expected that my brother and I would go to college.  Our parents made it very clear that college was the expectation and I don’t remember ever thinking that we would not follow that expectation.  My older brother may have some different memories, but by the time he graduated high school and started college, it was ingrained in me that I would soon follow.

As I look back in time, I find that interesting - because none of my parents, grandparents, or great grandparents completed a college education, although some of them attended for a season.  I also don’t remember either my brother or I challenging the expectation our parents had for us.  We both graduated with four-year degrees and I eventually stopped my pursuit of degrees just short of the PhD level.

I remember standing in a professor’s office in grad school along with a fellow student who had his BA from Princeton.  The professor was showing us a study done by the government (this was the mid -1970’s) and it showed the extra income earned by attaining a next higher level of degree and the resulting percentage of net economic benefit.  It showed a high school degree could be expected to provide $X of annual income.  A college graduate’s average could be expected to be slightly higher at $X dollars a year, and the net economic benefit was a slight plus.  A master’s degree would produce only slightly higher income than a college degree, therefore putting the cost/reward at about a 0% net gain.  The PhD degree actually showed a negative economic return of 3-4% because of the time, energy, and cost involved.  The statistics shook me a little because I was on that PhD track as a career path.  It made me do some calculations, hard thinking, and praying.  Up to that point I had only borrowed for one quarter of school.  

From the beginning, I had worked full time during summers and part time during the school year.  I had attended an Ohio State branch campus close to home so I did not need to pay for room and board or out-of-state tuition.  When I needed to transfer away from home for my junior year, I then chose to borrow my first quarter expenses.  It scared me that the borrowing of thousands of dollars was so easy and I soon determined not to go into debt anymore.  It became a conviction after serious prayer.  

As a result of that determination I worked very hard to stay true.  I worked full time in construction during the summers, applied for scholarships, and during the school year I worked as a tutor, janitor, and cafeteria worker.  After two more years of school I graduated with a college degree with no more debt!  I did the same for my grad school also.   Later, during my work career, my financial certification costs were reimbursed to me by my company when I passed final exams after months of course study.  That was real motivation to pass!  My PhD work came many years later and I was able to pay my own costs since I was working full time.

I know expenses are much higher now than when I was in school.  College costs have increased more than health care costs over the past 40 years.  Also, many people helped me along the way with gifts of money, some of it miraculously timed, and other types of encouragement.  I have always been and still am very thankful for the sacrifices others made on my behalf.  But I still had to work very hard to finish paying my way.  That experience helped me “learn” how to work hard, find fulfillment in it, and shape my character.  It is a major reason I am where I am today. 

I believe there are still ways of getting a four-year college education without sacrificing your future economic stability or your parent’s retirement.  There was no internet back then.  There were no four-year degree options at the local university.  Now there are both.  I am sure there are also part time jobs and scholarships available.

We’ve dedicated this newsletter to exposing the college debt crisis in our nation.  We are not picking on anyone if you have college debt.  I had some and many people reading this newsletter have as well.  We are suggesting you encourage others you know to open their eyes and think outside the box before going down the path of long-term debt for education.  Every situation is different but it is worth asking significant questions.


Have things changed for you — new home, new phone number or email, new child, family changes?  Do you need to change your beneficiaries? Please take a moment and email   We may simply need to update our files, but certain types of information should also be reported to the companies who hold your investments. Let us help you stay up-to-date!

If you are new to this mailing, we welcome you!  If you don’t wish to receive it, you can email the address above to opt out.  

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We are proud to announce that Orrie Augsburger passed his Series 7 licensure exam in May and both Orrie and Kathi Dunlap will continue to work attaining licenses to assist with conducting business.

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Gleaner Life Insurance Society recently awarded 100 scholarships to students who are Gleaner Life members.  Recipients in from our local arbor, Riley Creek Arbor, include Caitlyn Zimmerman and Susannah Dunlap.  Caity plans to attend Wright State University Lake Campus to pursue an associate’s degree in Earth and Environmental Science. Susannah is attending Rhodes State College, pursuing an associate’s degree in Physical Therapist Assisting.  If your child or grandchild would like to apply for this $2250 scholarship, they must be a member of Gleaner Life.  Contact our office for information about membership and applying for the scholarship.

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This issue of our newsletter is going to focus on the growing issue of college debt and the value of a college education.  We strongly believe that each student’s skills, interests, and ambition should be considered before there is a “default decision” to enter college and accumulate expense and debt. There are certainly careers that merit a college education and there are students who are highly motivated to pursue those fields.  However, there is also much to be gained by entering the workforce through direct employment, certification (on or off the job), and/or an associate’s degree.  Further, there are creative ways to pursue a bachelor’s degree that do not require room and board, full brick-and-mortar tuition, and so forth.  “Over the past 20 years, tuition at public and private universities has jumped by over 150 percent, while the federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 for almost a decade. It’s fair to claim that a college education is an investment in yourself, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it’s an outrageously expensive investment, and eventually someone has to pay for it.”  NYTimes “College vs Paycheck” 8/28/18 

This excerpt from an opinion piece in the New York Times explains that loans and employment are only partial solutions to the rising cost of college. Some loans and most scholarships apply only to tuition, so even if you get a full ride, you’re still on the hook for necessities like food, housing and textbooks.  And, since over 1/3 of all loan recipients do not finish college, this problem is compounded for those who take on the debt without the alleged earning advantage.

It is certainly “more than OK” to attend college away from home to pursue a bachelor’s degree or higher.  We are contending, though, that this should be a well-thought decision, not an automatic one. 

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You Do Not Have To Go To College to Make a Good Living

Having said that…

Young adults, age 25-34, with a college education were shown to earn more than their peers who had either no college or partial college (including associate’s degree and/or certificate completion.)


That increased earning capability needs to be offset by the economic disadvantage of debt.  There is significantly more debt accrued for higher education than for a  certificate or associate’s degree.

According to statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Education as of 9/30/18:

Average student loan debt: $33,310 Total student loan debt $1.44 trillion 

# of student loan borrowers: 42.9 million.  

According to a 2018 Student Loan Hero survey, 43% of college-educated Americans with student loans said they postponed buying a home because of their debt.

A recent survey of 800 student loan borrowers highlights the rising problem of debt in America. 1/3 of individuals surveyed said that money is responsible for tension and arguments in their marriage.  One out of every eight borrowers surveyed said that student loan debt directly contributed to the dissolution of their marriage.