Memorial Day weekend is imminent, which is the unofficial start of summer and the official start of area graduation ceremonies. If you have a family member graduating from high school this year, congratulations. Hopefully you aren’t breaking the bank to host a graduation party. Like other celebratory events such as kid’s birthday parties and weddings, graduation parties have become the latest entry in the social competition derby.
When I graduated from high school, a small reception for family and close personal friends with cake and punch was the standard. Now, graduation parties are starting to take on the persona of wedding receptions with huge invitation lists, catered food, alcoholic beverages for the adults, decorating themes, and enough memorabilia to start a personal hall of fame for the graduate. If you are not a fan of this craze, or just wish to scale down your child’s celebration, you have options. I’m going to make the same suggestion to this year’s graduates that I made to my parents many moons ago.
I really didn’t care about having a party, so I asked my mom how much she planned to spend on the event. She told me what she spent on my sister two years earlier. I then asked if I could skip the party and take that same amount in cash for college. She agreed, and we both walked away a winner. I got extra money for equipment I needed for school, and she was off the hook for entertaining (read cleaning, cooking, shopping, and organizing).
I recognize this suggestion will not appeal to every graduate or parent. There is nothing wrong with celebrating the benchmarks of your life. I had small family parties for both of my kids when they graduated. But you need to have a frank discussion with your child to see what their expectations are for celebrating graduation, what your budget can withstand, and make adjustments from there. Why go to all the work and expense of a big party if your child really doesn’t want one in the first place? You might compromise and opt for a smaller party with the rest of the party budget given in cash to the graduate for college.
Students are becoming increasingly concerned about their ability to finance a college education. According to a 2009 NEFE survey:
-95% of college students said the recession had impacted their family’s finances.
-There was a 169% increase in the number of students who reported dropping classes.
-There was a 106% increase in the number of students taking “leaves” from school.
-Students reported a 60% increase in credit card debt and an 85% increase in student loan debt.
Obviously these findings are disturbing. Now is the time to talk to your high school-age children about their expectations for college, the amount of money available for tuition, and affordable local options that will yield the same result (a degree). There is also the option of long distance education, which can yield a degree from a university that is not close geographically.
But it is important to keep in mind the benefit of higher education. We can debate the merits of a big, blow-out party, but education is a no-brainer. Whether academic or trade-related, it is an investment in oneself that can never be taken away. That investment is important, not just to students and parents, but to society in general.