Van E. Harl
MY CHILD: AIR FORCE ACADEMY OR A STATE UNIVERSITY
My daughter a freshman in high school attended a school function on the campus of the University of Colorado, at Boulder. The Colonel and I drove all around the town and the school. The campus is very nice, but it is huge, with tens of thousands of students, no place to park, and too many “different” looking people walking around. The old stone buildings make the place look like something out of a Jimmy Stewart movie. Don’t get me wrong, I am not picking on Boulder, but as a dad with a single, girl child, I have deep concerns about sending my daughter off to some large college campus where she is lost in the crowd.
My daughter keeps talking about attending the Air Force Academy. Her public high school is on the grounds of the Academy, and she has lived her entire life in an active duty Air Force family. I don’t want to say there is any pressure coming from her family to go to a military academy, but it is hard to over look the impact on a child whose mother always wears army boots.
The number one issue is I want her to get a good college education that will provide her with marketable skills for employment right after graduation. Some of the undergraduate degrees that are offered now-a-days do not make your young adult child ready to earn a living. I did notice the large number of commercial businesses that ring the Boulder campus that are set up to suck out every dollar that the parents put into their college student’s pocket.
While a college or university’s first mission is to educate its students: never forget that the students are customers, and the school is a business. If a profit is not made, no educating business will be able to keep the doors open. This is why when you see college students doing something illegal or just totally socially inappropriate on the nightly news, in most cases very little is done. Sure you could expel the offending student and remove any chance of them committing their unacceptable actions again, but the incoming funds from that student, or more likely the parents of that student, stops.
Go stand in a convenience store just off a college campus and watch the spending habits of a college student. They come into the store and buy $10 worth of junk food, over prices drinks, and tobacco products. Then they pull out a credit card and pay for it. That transaction did not involve real money for the young university student. If they had been required to pull out a ten dollar bill to pay for their “stuff” the sale would never have happened. The credit card made the purchase happen but the student did not want to understand the long term liability.
I was at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs the other day attending a retirement parade for a friend. Four thousands cadets were lined up in formation and then marched in a pass-in-review in front of the person retiring. Just prior to the parade, I watched as the cadets were going from their class to their dorm rooms to get in the correct uniform for the parade. They were college kids in good spirits as they passed me, but they were also Airmen who were acquiring one of the finest educations available in this country. These cadets’ parents think their child is getting a great free education. The cadets don’t think it is free. Sure there is no tuition, book or dorm fees, but imagine going to college for four years while you are in “boot camp.”
If Harvard gives you a full ride scholarship, when you graduate, you own them nothing. When a cadet graduates, that new military officer’s obligation has just begun, and if they go onto pilot training the years owed to the Air Force only go up. Some of America’s brightest minds attend the five US military academies.
As a father, I appreciate the fact that a large network called the Air Force is watching over, very closely the daily lives of this select group of college students. My daughter says she wants to go to the Air Force Academy. Watching those 4000 cadets march by the other day makes me really hope she does apply and enters into the class of 2015. I would even gladly pay tuition if that helps the Air Force educate her.
©Copyright April 11, 2008 by Van E. Harl