College Is Not the Only Option for our New-Adult Children |

College Is Not the Only Option for our New-Adult Children

A headline by Vox caught my eyes the other day, as I glanced at a list of online articles to read on my laptop - “The incredible shrinking future of college.”

A slew of assumptions took hold of my mind. Luckily, I try relying on valid statistics before shaping my opinions. What I came across was somewhat surprising, but predictable. As I reflected more on the anecdotal data from my personal and professional experiences, and then compared it with the data on high school and college graduation rates and enrollment numbers, I tried to keep the unique features of the Muslim community in the U.S. in mind. 

The Muslim community in the U.S. is considered to be highly educated, as is the case with a few other minority groups. The immigration wave of Muslims to America in the 1960s is mainly responsible for this effect. The question is what if this high is leveled out after a few more incoming generations of American Muslims and as the community grows. Are Muslim parents, of all social and ethnic backgrounds, realizing the new and different career world of their children? What are some of the issues being faced by their new-adult children? 

With years of experience guiding successful high school students as well as who quit, here are my thoughts and what I have learned:

  • Increasing tuition costs make it difficult for parents to support their new-adult children. Grants are fewer to come by, and the underwritings of the current loan schemes are making it difficult to consider it as an option (putting aside the non halal nature of these loans).  
  • Colleges already know that the decline in enrollment is coming and is here to stay. They too know that the graduating high school seniors are perplexed as to their choices of careers.  
  • The burnout rate is real. Many of the college freshmen are inadequately ready for the college academic experience. College graduation rate is on average only 65%. Consider that these are the students who make it to college. 
  • Students have less access to their creative vocations. High schools over the last few decades have increasingly designed educational programs to push students into college enrollment. For the sake of academic subjects, vocational and skills-based programs are routinely sacrificed. 
  • Not all bachelor’s degrees are created equal. College is an investment. Some degrees do not lead to a prosperous future if the output will not be greater than the input. 
  • Our children will make their own decisions. New-adult Muslims, the age demographic of 18-24 years old, have shown a strong desire to follow their own path rather than the wishes of their parents. 
  • They are also more aware of their mental health and desire a career-life balance. 

With these points in mind, it is important to note that college is not for everyone. Maybe it is for your new-adult, maybe it isn’t or maybe he/she needs a gap. How do you know and what can you do?

Break the Mold 

Start with yourself. Refrain from pushing your new-adult to enroll in college right after high school, if they are not up to it. Encourage a break from the grind to recharge. Put aside all your fears of their future if they do not attend a college, as if they are stumbling into darkness or riddled with poverty. Let them design their own future. Let them know their worth to you is more than a college degree.  

At this juncture there is an important question to ponder: have you instilled the skills in them to know what they want and how to pursue it? Think about it. Have an honest conversation with them while they are still under your roof. But mostly, exercise understanding and patience. Do present available options for a prosperous future. 

There are a few viable alternatives to college. 

Vocational Programs 

Encourage your new-adult to explore their strengths through vocational programs. You must have heard and it’s true that many big employers (like Google and Apple) are dropping the bachelor’s degree requirement from some positions and looking for employees with vocational and technical skills. Trade schools prepare their students for jobs in specific industries, typically with high demand including: 

  • Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
  • Automotive Service 
  • Dental Hygiene
  • Cosmetology
  • Electrician

Trade schools are also a good gateway for new-adults to pursue entrepreneurship, starting their own businesses in the future.

Certificate Programs 

Community colleges are excellent at providing training for local job market needs, often in the form of certificate programs. Here are some examples of areas where popular certificate programs benefit the entire community:

  • There is a shortage of nurses, and a greater need for nurse’s aides. Certificate programs in the healthcare field supply local hospitals with trained employees.
  • The recent pandemic caused many aging truckers to quit, thus creating a big scary hole in this market. Colleges created CDL (commercial driver’s license) training programs, and most enrollees are minority men and women, changing the face of this industry. Literally. 
  • Trained technicians in cyber security are in high demand, thus relevant certificate programs are available. Is there anyone left from cyber hacking? (sigh)
  • Early childcare or senior care certificate programs are helping provide a service to the community for families who are in much need. 

A community college experience such as these might also encourage your new-adult to further their studies in a 4-year college. Plus, certificate programs can lead to apprenticeship or vice versa, acquiring the skills while getting paid. These certificate programs are available for browsing on the colleges’ websites. Schedule an appointment with an advisor. It’s easy now as most colleges offer virtual advising appointments.

The Takeaway 

As unique as our new-adults are, let them make their own unique choices of their futures. Let them be adults and play your part. It is not easy to switch roles from being a provider to a guide and a friend, as a parent. It takes a lot of patience, restraint and most importantly respect for our adult children as intelligent beings. But it can be done, with faith in God and his ultimate, noble and unimpeachable wisdom.  

Tayaabah Qazi has a master’s degree in Educational Leadership, an AdminI/II Certification from the State of Maryland Education Department, and a Secondary Teaching Certification in Chemistry as well as a CPP certificate. She has served in the education field as a teacher and an administrator of schools. Recently, she served at Community College of Baltimore County as a Coordinator of Adult Basic Education program. Tayaabah is the Director at Prime Learning Solutions. She has been a long-time resident of Maryland for 17 years, with her family, but hails from Southern California. She is also a staunch believer of the 4 Cs: Compassion. Commitment. Conversation. Cultivation.

Add new comment