Friday, May 21, 2010

Expensive Prom? Drive Yourslef and Get a Job

Expensive Prom? Drive Yourself and Get a Job
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
May 21, 2010

Prom costs adding up? Here’s a novel concept: get a job!

That is my message to students who believe they are entitled to a gown or tuxedo, a limousine, an after party in a hotel suite or an overnight down the shore (or at the beach if you are not from New Jersey.) It is also my response to the Sunday, May 16 article “From prom to tests, costs add up for parents.”

Parents who are fretting these same costs, stop belaboring the issue and tell your children to start laboring to earn the money to afford such luxuries. Didn’t today’s parents – my peers, have jobs during the early and mid-‘80s to afford the prom tickets et al? Why are today’s parents so reluctant to ask their children to kick in for their own frivolous, yet, rite of passage events? Because they are too busy trying to be their children’s friends, and not teach the life lessons that will benefit them more than caving in and indulging their children’s every whim and demand.

While the prom is a fun event, it is not an entitlement that parents owe their children. If mom and dad want to spring for the expense of pre-prom tanning beds, hair and nails for girls, gown for girls, tuxedos for boys, limos, after parties as well as corsages and boutonnières, then, thank you very much.

I had the privilege of picking up my prom date in the car I shared with my mother. A limo never dawned on me as something I would have wasted money on because I had an after school job. It’s called living within one’s means and personal responsibility – the lessons parents ought to be teaching their children that will ultimately make them better citizens and better parents when it is their turn to send their own children off to the prom in 2040.

The same concept of living within one’s means and personal fiscal responsibility should be applied when dealing with the pre-college costs of visiting campuses, applications to schools and selecting a school. I had an agreement with my father – we would visit the schools to which I applied within a four-hour drive. If none of them appealed to me we would branch out the search only after receiving acceptance letters from those a short flight away. Fortunately, because I loathe flying, the University of Maryland, my eventual alma mater, fell into that four-hour drive category.

Only apply to schools you would actually attend and can afford. I was public school and state school educated K through graduate school. The question of affordability is the 800 pound elephant in the room of course. Again, get a job, enter a work-study program, get loans, peruse books such as Gobs and Gobs of Free Stuff and Free Money For Everybody, both written by Matthew Lesko and The Best Free Things in America written by Linda and Bob Kalian.

There are myriad scholarship programs that sound off the wall but will help defray expenses – scholarships for left-handed people, for Alaskan natives, for racial, ethnic and religious minorities, for American Indians, black Republicans, government scholarships, corporate scholarships and so forth.

Find sponsors to pay for the cost of the SAT, GRE, M-CAT, LSAT. Take your first year of college at the local community college and live at home then transfer the credits to the school you want to attend. Take summer classes at the same community college and graduate early.

As for the concerns parents have regarding some of the more questionable costs and fees, I too am wondering about them as well. Graduation dues? Senior dues? Parking fees at the local high school? Never heard of such expenses – they didn’t exist, dare I say, in “my day.”

At a number of schools, seniors were informed that failure to pay all fees would result in being barred from graduation. I suggest all parents work together in a band of civil protest and all boycott the fees for graduation, etc. Would it still be a graduation if nobody were permitted to partake?

Congratulations to all the graduates and best wishes in your future endeavors – college, military or the work world. Learn the lessons of fiscal prudence and personal responsibility. Do not follow the example of the wayward government.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and political consultant living in Alexandria, VA. Contrary to popular belief, he did not attend a one-room schoolhouse.

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