College should not be labeled as the best option for everyone

Remember high school? I can almost guarantee you heard the same assurances I did during those formative years. Everyone told us college was the end-all and be-all, and it was absolutely essential for a successful life.

I cannot tell you how heavily a degree was touted as the best value a young person could add to themselves. Well, unless you are in a very specific field like engineering or nursing, those notions are becoming increasingly outdated.

Attending a university has become obscenely expensive, rising significantly faster than inflation according to Katie Lobosco of CNN. With the utterly inexcusable amounts of debt people are having to place themselves in before they even get started in life, there should be a huge return on investment, but in a lot of cases there is not. 

Sure, obtaining a degree raises your chances of landing a well-paying, relevant job. This is not debatable. However, trends indicate this extra boost is becoming smaller by the day.

For many these days, four years of their life, which they could spend working and earning tens of thousands of dollars, are wasted so they can go manage a Belk; this is a far cry from the "life changing value" we were promised. Essentially, obtaining a degree can be a complete gamble depending upon which field you are interested in. I am not familiar with many people who would spend over $37,000, the average student loan debt as stated by Abigail Hess of CNBC, for a mere chance at securing the career they want when there are other options out there.

Speaking of those other options, I will use my own major to illustrate their availability. As a business information systems major, I will probably entera tech-related field and utilizing my web development and database management skills after graduation. A degree helps me obtain these skills, true, but so would taking certification courses for an extreme fraction of the cost and time commitment.

Would these certifications alone place me in the same boat I will be in with a degree? Probably not, but it would be sufficient for many entry-level jobs and the five-year period I would not have made money while earning my degree would be replaced with actual income.

BIS is not the only field these types of things apply to. Art, music, agriculture and other business fields are all examples of areas in which you could realistically bypass a degree fairly easily. Other majors, like psychology and English, require extensive post-grad work, which doubles or triples the debt with little increase in pay prospects. Additionally, majors such as history require graduate degrees and still have an abysmal job market. Ironically, part of the problem surrounding fields with sparse job opportunities is caused by the very people who encourage attending university.

Ellen Ruppel Shell of The New York Times, explains this conundrum, "Technology increased the demand for educated workers, but that demand has been consistently outpaced by the number of people — urged on by everyone from teachers to presidents — prepared to meet it," Shell claims.

I knew none of these things in high school. I attended the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, which was supposed to give me a leg up when weighing my options for after high school, but my guidance counselors neglected to ever bring up whether college was even the right option. It was just assumed that it was and I was thrust into higher education, unprepared and misinformed.

Now, if a student at one of the best high schools in the entire state does not receive all the facts, what hope can we have for kids in public schools with notoriously terrible counseling and little to no care invested into individual students?

We are being disingenuous to our youth by feeding them these delusions of grandeur and hyping a degree to the point we do. Trade schools, apprenticeships, certification programs and even the military can provide what young adults need, but they are almost never brought up, and it is an utter disservice.

College is a great option for some, but it is a terrible one for others, and certainly not the only option for anyone. It is time we make this clear, we need to dispel this myth of instant success with higher education, and keep our young people from potentially making mistakes they will pay, quite literally, for decades. 

(1) comment

Anna R. Perez

It is impossible to separate degrees from skills. A person needs a degree and skills in order to succeed in the race of life. Degrees without skills are empty. The same applies to skills without degrees. Survival of the fittest depends on the strength of both factors. Well, I am thinking to study abroad and my friend sent me article where I could read significant tips before traveling abroad.

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