When it comes to sending your children off to college, Bill Cosby has some advice for parents.

"Let 'em bring their luggage," Cosby said. "But we don't want 'em to have a whole lot of baggage."

The 71-year-old entertainer, who has helped raise millions of scholarship dollars, regularly uses his celebrity to draw attention to the value of higher education. He also speaks out about what parents and teens need to do to make college a reality. Both parents and students have a role in preparing young people for higher education, he said in an interview with Columbus Parent Magazine during a visit to Columbus last spring. He was here to speak at a fundraiser for Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.

Q. Can the attitude of parents play a role in whether children pursue college?

A. I have a problem with trying to get the home to build upon itself. Parents have to value themselves. When they value themselves, then they have to value their children - and you can't do that by having a baby when you're 14.

Q. How can you put a student on the course for college?

A. We're looking for people to try to get a foundation of studying. Once they get this foundation of studying and caring and valuing themselves, it would lead one to understand that you have to study. It's the fun of studying because that brings in to play error and then making corrections ... and knowing what to do and how to do things. It will lead to one being less afraid of the unknown.

Q. How can we help students who don't have support at home become interested in college?

A. It's certainly very tough to do. I think a person would have to want and be searching for answers. I think the way to do it is we really have to show people where the tricks are. Where is a person really being tricked by a magazine, being tricked by the television commercials, being tricked by television, being tricked by the music industry, being tricked by the clothing industry?

Q. How can we give young people an appreciation for education?

A. I would like to see the state of Ohio put into place in its public schools mandatory history of slavery and the rise of the ancestors from a country that would not allow slaves to read or write or be taught to read and write. Give all of the children of this United States of America a clear, honest picture of how the slaves struggled and succeeded. We will then find our children and the children of other people of color, and I mean white is a color, that they would have strong feelings about their ancestors. These children would come from Ohio knowing their ancestors, knowing about them, knowing about their drive for education and these kids would just light up all of Ohio.

Q. What role does education play in success?

A. When you hear a successful person say, 'I just decided that it was needed, and I did it.' Then that person becomes a multi-zillionaire. It's when it's so simple because everyone is saying, 'I thought about that myself.' But who did it? And that too is why education is so important because it may initiate a person to do something.

Q. Anything else parents can do to encourage their kids to go to college?

A. You know cotton picking and tobacco stripping are responsible for more doctorates and graduating lawyers and medical degrees and earning degrees than anything. So if your son is laying on the sofa, playing the Game Boy or Grand Theft Auto, practicing how to get into jail, how are you going to make him do algebra?
I suggest that all [kids] grow cotton fields. It'll wake them up right away. Right away they'll be (saying) 'I love calculus.'