On Higher Education

Amanda Bynes stars in Sydney White, a movie about “higher” education

The discussions I typically have amongst my friends are usually intelligent. For example, we enjoy talking about theoretical concepts in religion and politics. We also graze upon public policy and amongst public policy, we indulge in the topic of education. As a group of friends that is, for the most part, pretty intellectual, we care about education and are rather opinionated about it. Now that school is back in session, these tiny movie clips of conversation are playing on a reel inside of my head like memories I can’t seem to get my mind off of. I’m wondering if over the next “x” amount of years I spend learning, I’ll figure out the answers to some of the questions about the way stuff works. But for now, I figured that these bits of discussion and information would be good to share. Mean Girls has relevance because we can’t stop quoting it, so my everlasting questions about our system of higher education are important because I can’t stop thinking about them, right? Like is that not the basis of all logic?

The topic we’ve discussed most was more of a thesis than anything else, and it is this: not everyone should go to college.

Today, you constantly see ad campaigns pushing for a college education. Is it true that in today’s society, it seems as though lack of a four-year bachelor’s degree and even some form of post-graduate education is necessary to land a well-paying steady job? Yes, it definitely seems that way. So when I say that not everyone should go to college, I am totally aware of the fact that 9 times out of 10 in the world we live in today, higher education is necessary. But do I think that society should have remodeled itself the way it did to fit that statistic? No, not at all.

You used to not need to go to college to live pretty well-off. If you think about it, that’s why so many millennials are the first in their families to attend college. A university education is incredibly expensive (and perhaps overpriced, a topic I will delve into a little later). If you know that the career path you plan on following is not going to ever require that you know half of the things you are going to learn in college, then why waste your money and time? Economically, it doesn’t make sense.

Because of the influx in the amount of people who want to attend four-year institutions, the application process is increasingly competitive. A college acceptance is starting to become similar to winning Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. Or, for those of you who stick to diets of lettuce and coffee, think of it as willing the mega-millions. I happen to not be a huge fan of the lottery example because there’s a larger likelihood that from your college education you’ll spend around $100,000 and graduate unemployed and in debt to your parents, the bank, or if you’re lucky, both!!!! But, hey, I’m just a pessimist.

If you’re aiming for a career that will really require four years (or more) of higher education, then go for it. If anyone is in favor of being as educated as possible, it’s me. I have binders full of worksheets I made while I was in elementary school. Every weekend–hell, every chance I got–I would force my younger brothers to “play school.” My parents bought me a giant whiteboard and a set of Expo markers. If it were up to me, I would be in school forever. But why continue going if a) you aren’t super passionate about learning, like I and the other anomalies out there are, b) it isn’t necessary for the lifestyle you want to lead, and c) the expenses are outrageous?

You could say that the real problem here is the very cost of education; if higher education wasn’t so expensive, then it wouldn’t be so difficult to give another four years of your life to learning, and although your career may not require all of the learning that is non-specific to your trade, the price of the education would make the whole experience worth it regardless.

And, now, on the topic of expense: why is college getting increasingly expensive? I’m not so great at economics, but I know the rule of supply and demand. When supply is low, demand goes up, and price goes up. When supply is high, and demand is low, price goes down. Although college is getting more competitive, there is a larger number of students now than there ever was before. So demand is high, but it also seems that supply is high. And… price is high? Something isn’t right here. I’m no Econ major, but what do you expect from a pointless liberal arts education anyways?!?!

If anything, I feel like the value of a college education is going down. When everyone’s getting a college degree, no one’s getting a college degree. What I mean by this: when everyone’s wearing Doc Martens, they lose their cool. Now do you get what I’m saying? So, we’ve resorted to various graduate degrees. When something is less unique, it’s less valuable. This is not to say that I don’t feel absolutely #blessed for the education experience I’m receiving. I wouldn’t change a thing for the world. But maybe I’m just a victim to the times.


One Comment on “On Higher Education”

  1. Alex Mause says:

    You have written an interesting piece on the value of higher education. Like you, I always thought the employers created the supply. But, I never thought an employer could keep a person from pursuing his or her desired profession. Years ago, a friend of my father became a CPA. At that point in time all one needed was a Bachelor’s in Accounting. Now-a-days, one needs a Master’s. This “raising” of “standards” (juxtaposed with the staggering rise of college tuition rates) means that someone who wants to pursue a profession has to spend more money and/or go into more debt than the previous generation. Sadly, it seems that higher education institutions in America (by and large) are watering down their curriculum so that they can entice more students to enroll in their graduate programs in order for said students to receive their professional degrees. Consider this: if a Bachelor’s degree is still a Bachelor’s degree wherever you go, why is there such a disparity between what one college charges per credit versus what another college charges per credit? Strange times we are living in….


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