Parents become primary source of income for college students

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A college student wrote to her father: “Dear Pop: I feel miserable because I have to keep asking you for money. I feel ashamed. It breaks my heart because I have to ask again for another hundred. Every cell in my body is rebelling. I beg on bended knee that you forgive me. Your daughter, Melissa. P.S.: I felt so terrible I ran after the mailman who picked up my letter. I wanted to take and burn it. I prayed to God I could get it back, but it was too late.” A few days later, she received a letter from her father: “Your prayers were answered. Your letter never came.”

Oh, those awful college expenses. Parents with college sons and daughters graduating in 2009 are breathing sighs of relief, knowing they will no longer have to pay tuition. And the graduates shedding a tear as they walk out the doors of their school are also grateful it is over. Indeed, it is a happy time for them.

A college student telephoned his parents: “Please send me more money.” At the other end, his father said, “I can’t hear you.” The boy shouted, “Please send more m−o−n­e−y.” “I can’t hear you.” The operator cut in, “I can hear him.” The father replied, “Good. You send him the money.”

(Psst, parents of college students: Before I go further, I have a secret to tell you. I found out the names of a few mind−challenging courses being studied by some of your collegians: “Sex, Rugs, Salt and Coal” and “Cyberfemin­ism” (Cornell University), “Lesbians, Bisexual and Gay Literature (Colorado University), “Mail−Order Brides” (Johns Hopkins University) and “The Phallus” (Occidental College). And you are paying for the study of these essential, cranium−enriching subjects.)

Parents cry at their children’s college commencements, as do their cell phone and credit card providers.

But, grads, before you receive your graduation sheepskin, you must first sit through a prerequisite: the never−ending commencement ceremonies where the famous and not−so−famous are invited to inflict their self−styled, unabridged words of wisdom. Before it is over, you may think your four years of college were not worth it.

Graduation is one of the five milestones of life. The others are birth, marriage, death and the day your student loan is paid off.

But do not despair. Just think of the exciting challenges the new chapter in your life will bring. For those who may need more time before deciding what to do for the rest of their lives, however, I have some suggestions.

“What is your son taking at college?” “Everything I got!”

Do not look for that lifetime occupation now. You have time for that permanent career when the finicky economy picks up. Do whatever you want to do and not what is expected of you. Remember, you only live once.

My son is a great spender. He is the only college student who ever overdrew an unlimited expense account.

How about being a ski bum in Colorado or traveling to Swaziland with the Peace Corps? Then there is biking across the United States, rehabilitating orangutans in Borneo or helping Al Gore build huge ice mountains from Antarctica to Alaska to counter global warming.

The average college student goes through 210 books in four years, but 10 percent are not bank books.

How about swimming in a shark cage off the Great Barrier Reef or becoming a nanny in Kazakhstan? If you want to do any or all of these, go for it! Remember, enjoy your youth. There is always time to segue that yellow brick road to job, marriage and children.

Money may not be everything, but it keeps college kids writing to you.

But pity the parents who must still dig into their pockets to pay tuition for their children attending college and withstand their insatiable requests for more “spending” money. “After all,” they insist, “spring break in Mexico comes but once a year.”

My neighbor’s college son wrote, “Dear folks, I’ve been worried sick because I haven’t heard from you. Please send me a check so I’ll know you’re okay.”

With that said, Gloria and I want to extend congratulations and good luck to all the graduates of the class of 2009. We know everyone may not become secretary of state, secretary of commerce or president of the United States, but you will find happiness and success — provided you buckle your safety belt, floss your teeth daily, cook your hamburgers at more than 150 degrees and read my column every week.

And to the parents of children in college, we hope you win the lottery.

Contact Alex Berger at

Posted 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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