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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

The Importance of “framing” Part 7 – Getting it Right – Going to University!

College is a purchase! What are you buying?

“Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” Margaret Mead

“I'm sorry, if you were right, I'd agree with you.” Robin Williams

My third daughter started college this fall. Having gone through the college selection process twice before, I was prepared when we began to discuss where she was going and how to pay for it. As with the other two, her perspective was that she wanted to go to a state school and have the “college experience”. That included living in the dorm and being far enough away so we couldn’t just drop in.

After listening to her, I explained that she was viewing the issue through the wrong frame.

Her frame was that going to college was an experience.

My frame was that college was a purchase.

She wants to be a nurse, and the starting salary for a Registered Nurse in Maryland is approximately $65,000 a year. That is what she will make if she attends a large state school and stays in a dorm. That is also what she will make if she goes to a community college then transfers to the local state school.

I asked her how much she was willing to pay to earn $65,000. One of the universities she was interested in had a four-year cost of $130,000. Community college and then a transfer to the local university will have a four-year cost of around $40,000. Still a lot of money, but almost 75% less expensive than the “college experience”!

Once you accept the frame that college is a purchase, it becomes an economic decision! What are you purchasing? For a nursing degree, you are purchasing a piece of paper (and the requisite knowledge behind it!) that you can present to an employer and make $65,000 a year!

Do you want to spend $40,000 to earn $65,000, or do you want to spend $130,000?

The answer is obvious! And I am proud that she picked the obvious answer. She quickly understood that the “college experience” will have long faded, but those student loans would remain!

Why would I make my daughters pay for their own school? We will discuss that frame next!


I continue to be shocked and amazed at the things large organizations do. When I was much younger, I recall reading Scott Adams in the forward of a “Dilbert” book. He said (and I am paraphrasing) that he portrays various people and roles in large organizations as trolls, devils, and clueless leaders. And no matter how extreme he gets, people say, “Hey, that’s just like where I work!”. I am seeing a lot of large organizations fumble their reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak, and I sure get what Scott Adams meant.


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