Saturday, February 26, 2011

Stop Dismissing Higher Education! It's Well Worth It

I've recently read a lot articles and blog posts relating to higher education. Everything seems to come back to the point of whether it's worth it to go to college or not. Many argue that due to the Great Recession and skyrocketing cost of higher education, a lot of college graduates are stuck with loads and loads of student loans while they can't find or hold down a good job.

It's true that employment opportunities are currently not what they use to be, but that's no reason to dismiss going to college altogether. Instead, it provides a chance for us to rethink what a college education means. On an individual basis, a careful cost/benefit analysis needs to be done when choosing a school. Nationally, though, we should bring attention to studies and debates to find ways to keep costs down.

Besides, why are we talking about less education when the rest of the world is becoming increasingly more educated? In a lot of countries, a bachelor’s degree is no longer enough. People are getting masters and Ph.Ds. in order to get jobs. On top of that, globalization means that we won't only be competing for jobs here in the U.S., we'll have to compete with those people with graduate degrees from other countries in the future (it's already happening now), whether we like it or not.

I'm not saying that it's impossible to do well in life without attending college. In fact, in the age of technology, I'd argue that it's become much easier to do so. But oftentimes, those stories of successful college dropouts are sensationalized. The odds are still against people without a degree. Back to my point about the recession hitting recent college graduates hard… well, it hit those without a higher education degree even harder. Ask yourself what the cost of NOT being educated is.

I also want to point out that the purpose of higher education has been skewed. When we talk about why people attend college or choose a certain school, we tend to make it into a purely economic decision. Is it affordable? Will there be a return on investment by obtaining a well-paying job after? Sure that's important, but what about learning for the sake of learning? The main reason most people complain about college students not studying and learning these days is because inherent in the higher education conversation is jobs, jobs, jobs. That's what students have to look forward to after graduation, and along the way, substance becomes trivialized. The reason to attend college has become getting a diploma instead of learning new skills and exchanging ideas. Some say that you rarely ever use what you learn in class at work. True, but it's not just about what you learn from the books.

I'm not going to lie. When I selected a school, whether I'll be able to afford it and be able to find a successful job after graduation were my top concerns. But once school started, I realized that one of the most valuable things about attending college was the people I met and the discussions I get to have with them both in and out of class. It was about being able to have intellectual arguments and spawn new ideas amongst peers. And to me, I can't trade that experience for anything else.


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