It’s interesting how different things catch your eye based on the season of life you are in. A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have even noticed it, but with a daughter just about 8 months away from heading off to college, when I saw the title, not only did I pull it off the shelf and read the back cover, I bought it and read it in its entirety. And boy, am I glad I did! More on this in a moment. First, some personal background.

I have been learning a lot about going off to college over the past year as we have taken Claudia on some college visits, met with admissions counselors, etc. Over 20 years ago, my college decision was simple. My dad worked at a college that trained people for ministry. That was exactly what I wanted to do with my life, so I only applied to one school; the one Dad worked at. Because it was a small, private college, they did not offer financial aid or scholarships – everything had to be paid as you were going along. Therefore, I never had to deal with applying for loans. The best thing was, because Dad worked for the college, I was able to attend at a significant discount, and I was able to do a work-study program to pay off my balance semester by semester.

When I went on to graduate school I had to venture into the waters of student loans, but through a series of fortunate circumstances I was able to sell my home precisely when I was to start repaying my loans, and I made enough from the sale to pay off my loan in full. So, I never dealt with the reality of making monthly payments over several years. This was a great blessing, but they offered me no real experience from which to be able to counsel my daughter. Thank goodness I stumbled upon that book in Barnes and Noble the other day.

The book is Beating the College Debt Trap: Getting a Degree Without Going Broke by Alex Chediak. Although I am very proud of Claudia, and excited about her heading off to college, to be honest, there are many things that I have been thinking, wondering, and worrying about as the reality approaches. Not least of which, how we are going to pay for her education. In the book, Chediack addresses several myths about college and addresses each one with a picture of reality and alternate ways of achieving the desired outcome of a degree without getting into the precarious, but all-too-common, position of having tens, even hundreds, of thousands of dollars in debt (and perhaps no real job prospects) to show for it.

Chediak’s insights were extremely helpful in understanding the world of degrees and college finances. His practical wisdom about choosing schools, degree programs, school loans, grants, scholarships, internships, work-study programs and more, pointed out many creative solutions that we intend to explore with Claudia and our conversations with her college. We want to ensure that when she finishes college she will have a degree that reflects her passions and giftings while opening doors to a sustainable and fulfilling career. We also want her to be able to head off into her post-college life without the nasty millstone of unrealistic debt around her neck. This book really increased our chances of making those desires a reality. I highly recommend it to anyone planning to take on the task of getting a college degree. Chediak also has two other books available: Thriving at College: Make Great Friends, Keep Your Faith, and Get Ready for the Real World and Preparing Your Teens for College: Faith, Friends, Finances, and Much More which I am sure are equally as good, and which I am planning to pick up myself.

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