Bookworm Sez: ‘College (Un)bound’ may save money, heartache

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Bookworm Sez: ‘College (Un)bound’ may save money, heartache

“Hope After Faith: An Ex-Pastor’s Journey from Belief to Atheism” by Jerry DeWitt, with Ethan Brown

c.2013, Da Capo Press $25.99 / $29.00 Canada 270 pages

You practically cut your teeth on a Bible.

That’s how long God has been in your life: since you were old enough to understand language. You grew up in church on Sunday, Bible camp in summertime, and Bible study in between. You’ve never questioned it, ever.

But Jerry DeWitt has – even though he grew up knowing that he had a calling. In his new book “Hope After Faith” (with Ethan Brown), he explains what happened to shake his belief.

Born and raised in a “deeply religious small town” in Louisiana , Jerry DeWitt always felt pulled toward the Word of God. As a child, he was a fan of Jimmy Swaggart, and the local Presbyterian Church was his second home. It was no surprise, then that, at a time when most boys were choosing high school classes, DeWitt decided to have his own ministry someday.

It was a bumpy ride to that point, though.

When he was not quite three years old, DeWitt’s father died in a truck accident. That, the “rough style of parenting” his father practiced, and several household moves made DeWitt “withdrawn, anxiety-ridden,” and shy, but his fourth-grade teacher saw potential in the boy and took him under her wing. She encouraged his dreams and even took him to a Swaggart revival camp meeting.

Later, because of a girl, DeWitt decided to attend Baptist services, but it “lacked the energy… I had grown accustomed to” at Presbyterian services. He also noticed that some Presbyterian Church members seemed disdainful of other churches but, undaunted, he moved forward with his mission. He met a woman, fell in love, got married within three short months, and almost immediately pulled his bride into a lifestyle that was Spartan, to say the least.

But when one “Brother” hinted that DeWitt couldn’t be friends with someone from another church, and another “Brother” tried to trick him during a service, DeWitt’s fervent faith began to crack.

He eventually became “completely disenfranchised from the relationship with God that I held very dearly,” he says. And when he realized that he couldn’t pray for a friend, he knew that the crack was canyon-wide…

Aside from the fact that it’s plagued with a common memoir flaw (infinitesimally tiny details that mean absolutely nothing to a vast number of readers), “Hope After Faith” isn’t horribly bad.

To the positive, I was intrigued by peeks inside revival tents and behind the podium. Authors Jerry DeWitt and Ethan Brown show that being a Man of God isn’t a smooth path; in fact, it’s really not for wimps. This provocativeness, however, is bruised by a long and convoluted back-and-forth, in-and-out-of-the-ministry section of the book, which culminates (rather quickly) in an ending that I’m betting will cause abundant controversy.

Overall, I think fervent believers are going to be aghast at this book. Non-believers will find something to bolster their tenets between these covers. Therefore, if you’re in the former column, pass. If you’re in the latter camp and need a new thought-provoker, “Hope After Faith” should make the cut.

“College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students” by Jeffrey J. Selingo, performed by Fred Stella

c.2013, Brilliance Audio $29.99 U.S. & Canada 8 CDs / 9:28 length

In just a few months, it’ll be that time of year again.

Time when everybody asks you what was in the package you got, the one you’ll open with excitement. Time for good cheer and (admit it) some disappointment, surprises and things you definitely want.

Yes, we’re talking Fat Envelope Season, the time when you learn which college accepted you. It’s a period of great excitement… and fear because Fat Envelope Season generally means a skinny wallet. In the new audiobook “College (Un)Bound” by Jeffrey J. Selingo, you’ll learn how to go lean.

So you say you want a degree in nursing or law? Or maybe video gaming is more your style, or a degree in surfing? That may be possible, since today’s colleges are creating degrees for jobs that didn’t exist before or that didn’t used to need a degree.

Selingo indicates, however, that getting a degree doesn’t always mean better work from you, or for you after graduation. Part of that problem is because “heightened focus on the student as customer is leading to a… dumbing down of college campuses.” Millennials who tend to expect rewards for effort rather than for work are also to blame.

Non-administrative amenities and student services certainly increase the cost of college without adding to education. Also, a bachelor’s degree “has become the new high school diploma,” which can ultimately lead to a need for a second degree in order to compete in today’s world – which, of course, costs.

Combating these issues is do-able: first, know what you’re borrowing and what it buys. Use the college’s website calculator; lack of money is the number one reason why students don’t graduate. Know how much debt your college has taken on; in fact, learn everything possible about your school, including its priorities, graduation employment rate, and the “mobility of credits.”

Look for a college that allows credit for a MOOC, or offers self-paced or “personalized” classes. Consider taking a gap year. And choose your major based on what you love, not on how much money you might make someday.

After listening to “College (Un)Bound” on CD, it wouldn’t surprise me if I learned that a lot of people might get angry at what’s here.

Parents, I think, will be outraged when they discover what their second mortgage pays for at college. Author Jeffrey J. Selingo is also Editor at Large at the Chronicle of Higher Education, so he’s well aware of where those tuition dollars go.

Students will be angry that attending college might not mean an education; more than a third of fourth-year students in one study lacked improvements over their freshman scores in critical skills. And college officials will be upset because Selingo says that the problems won’t go away without tough actions – none of which are pleasant.

If you’re filling out forms this fall and anticipating good tidings of great joy, then listen to this audiobook first. It might save you money and heartache. For you and your family, “College (Un)Bound” could make a big fat difference.

(The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books.)