Originally posted July 14th 2019
As college students enter graduation season, a lot of them will be graduating into a work force a that is nonexistent. With the recent economic down turn, opportunities for post graduate employment have diminished. Because of this, some graduates will be left with an insurmountable amount of debt with no way of paying it back; Which begs the question: what good is a college degree?
Seven years ago I would have had a concrete and confident answer, now a days I am not so sure. Growing up, my initial motivation for wanting to go to college was I’d have an opportunity to get a better job, make more money over the course of my lifetime, and I’d get to do something I’m passionate about.
Since getting my masters however, I have yet to get the better job or the more money. And prior to starting this blog, I was not doing something I was passionate about. The world does not reward us just because we got an expensive piece of paper, this is more true now than ever before. So with no visible benefits from going to a glorified sleep away camp for four plus years what will students actually get from going to college?
The fact of the matter is, higher education institutions are failing to prepare the majority of their students for life in the real world. Most college graduates aside from engineers and medical students go into some type of sales/administrative role after they graduate.
College exacerbates the propaganda that is spoon fed to students while they are growing up, that they have to go to college after high school. And today’s employers proliferate that narrative by requiring applicants to have a degree. Most people today do not work in the same field they earned their degree in, and those that want to, do not always get the chance to because while they may have the degree they do not have the experience.
During the 2017-2018 academic year, the reported average cost a year for an instate student going to a public four year institution was just over $25,000, double for a private school. If the average college student after four years is coming out of school with between $100,000 – $200,000 dollars worth of debt, it should be standard practice not a program specific privilege to gain real world experience while in college.
And while students can find ways of reducing the cost of school through scholarships, living off campus, or getting an on campus job, the fact remains that students generally speaking, get less value for their dollar as it pertains to college; Not to mention, that your average college undergrad changes their major three times, prolonging their time and money spent at school.
The good thing is, the culture around college is shifting. Four year universities are not the definitive option they use to be. Community colleges are becoming more competitive everyday, and trades are becoming more appealing.
While there is still value in pursuing higher education, the decision to do so has to be better informed. Future students have to know what the actual return on their investment is going to be when they finally graduate, and determine whether or not college will be lucrative for them.
The best way to get a real bang for your buck from college is to use it as a catalysis for you passions. If a person is passionate enough about what they do/want to do, they can make their passions a career, and then truly enjoy the fruits of their labor, knowing the debt will have been worth it.
For those students who are just hellbent on going to a four year college right out of high school, regardless of major, the best thing they can get other than the degree, is what I would call non-marketable experience. This is experience that a person may not be able to put on a resume but, they can apply it to everyday life.
This type of experience encompasses: leadership skills, diplomacy, networking skills, time management, conflict management, teamwork, sales skills, marketing, how to dress and carry oneself professionally, public speaking, interviewing skills, and healthy habits. These are all skills that are important in the real world, but cannot be explicitly stated on a resume.
While in college a person can learn these skills anywhere, as long as they put themselves in a position to do so. This is the true immediate value of going to college today. In short, new college students should make getting involved in extracurriculars a priority.
It’s time to get smarter about how we do college. Students need to be more educated on what making the decision to go means. College students will be in debt, may not gain any marketable experience, and may not even end up in their chosen career path. Is that worth going and getting a degree anyway?
Depends on what that person wants. People with college degrees will still have more opportunities over the course of their lifetime than those without, but college is not the only way to make it anymore, it never was, and its time to be upfront about the positives and negatives of that.
Students should do their research, and those in a position to advise should make every option known and appetizing for students. The military for example should not be presented to a high school student as a second to last choice if it’s a right first choice.
And for those students who do go to a four year college, they need to know its important to get some immediate value from their experience as a whole. The degree it will eventually pay off, but if that pay off is delayed they should have something to show for it other than just a piece of paper and an expensive bill.
Join the conversation and share your perspective in the comment section below!