I realize I am asking this question to Batesies who would not be here if they did not believe that college was somewhat necessary. However, you have probably wondered – what is this all for? Tuition bills, homework, exams, labs, papers—where will this diploma take me?
While blockbuster films such as Admission staring Tina Fey’s show college as commonplace, a requisite in our society, Dale Stephens has published the book Hacking Your Education, speaking to those students who find college diplomas unworthy of the cost.
“It has been made clear that if you don’t get good grades and attend a four-year college, the rest of your life will be a dismal failure. I’m arguing that all of this is wrong,” writes Stephens.
Stephens argues that student loans put graduates into debt, that colleges don’t develop critical thinking, reasoning, or written communication skills in students as much as they should, and that college graduates are not faring well in the job market. Then is it all worth for naught?
He cites concerning data—in 2012, the average student graduated with $27,000 in debt, and 22.4 percent of graduates under the age of twenty-five were unemployed, while another 22 percent were working jobs that did not require a college degree. The numbers are scary, but I can’t help but think that these numbers would be lower if the U.S. were not in an economic downturn, that the return of a booming economy would be the return of jobs for graduates.
“The professors want to publish papers to get tenure. The students want to get a degree in the easiest way possible. The administrators are waiting for your tuition checks. But you have to recall: Universities do not exist to train you for the real world; they exist to make money,” Dale Stephens writes.
Are universities simply businesses or are they institutions of higher education? I see an institution of higher education at Bates and other liberal arts colleges. Larger universities still function as institutions of higher education, but these institutions must work in a business model in order to ensure efficiency, not to reap in the riches of the student population.
In President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech he spoke about the relationship between colleges and education. President Obama stated, “Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.”
A modern, strong economy demands workers for our infrastructure. These jobs don’t necessarily demand a college diploma. President Obama claimed that colleges and schools must train our workers. This is the hope—we pay money to learn, colleges give us diplomas showing our skills and knowledge, we land a great job that pays us the reward of our hard work, time spent, and money spent.
But colleges do not ensure that when we graduate we will find jobs. Colleges aid our ability to find a job and improve our mathematic, scientific, reasoning, writing, and/or communication skills and leave the rest up to us. College is as much as you take out of it. It doesn’t magically give you all of the qualities you need to become the ideal candidate for the job you’ve always wanted.
College may not be for everyone. If a student does not have the desire for college education, then why force him or her to sit through classes he or she has no desire to be in? There are plenty of jobs that don’t require a college diploma. But college should not be disregarded for those who cannot afford it.
Stephens argues that college loans aren’t worth a college diploma. Let me suggest another alternative—making college more affordable for the general public. Nobody should have to pay $57,000 for a year of education, nor should they go to community college in order to afford a college education when a community college education does not meet their needs and desire.
While socialized education at the university level is commonplace in Europe, it has not found its way to the United States. Tuition at the prestigious Paris-Sorbonne University in France is less than $1,000. While this tuition does not include housing, the difference in prices is undeniable.
I don’t believe colleges and universities should be completely socialized. Our colleges and universities in the United States are some of the best in the world, and by socializing our system we could potentially disrupt the dynamics of colleges and universities throughout the U.S. What I suggest instead is a restructuring of the financial aspect of college. More financial aid should be available to more students. Public universities should receive more tax money.
College isn’t worth it for everyone, but it is a personal decision. I will graduate with student loans. But my diploma will not represent four years of wasted time, but rather four years of growth of my knowledge and reasoning, writing, and communication skills.