I’ve taken the liberty of providing you with a cynical soundtrack while you read.
“…And your mother’s sayin ‘go to college’, so you finish college and it’s wonderful. You feel so good, and after all the partying and crazing and don’t forget about that drug habit you picked up at school being around your peers, hey, now you’ll get that 25 thou job a year…”
First off, congratulations to the recent graduates! I’ve been putting off writing about this topic because frankly, it depresses me. For those of you who don’t know me or haven’t quite figured out my identity, I graduated from Texas 3 years ago, worked for 2 years, and am now in grad school pursuing dual-master’s degrees. As you can imagine, I’m not looking forward to repaying the loans that stand right behind the light at the end of my academic tunnel. Here at the ThreadBlog, all of us have degrees, advanced degrees, and/or college experience. Before you congratulate us and marvel at our academic prowess, realize that most of us have mountains of debt we’re either paying or soon will be when we leave the “safe haven” of academia. If that’s not sobering enough for you, most of us aren’t where we want to be professionally, either. The fact of the matter is that it’s a new game out here. The “real world” isn’t our parents’ “real world” anymore. I’ve had this discussion with my parents on quite a few occasions, and I tell them that their high school diploma is essentially equivalent to my bachelor’s degree. You know how they say you can’t do much with a high school diploma these days? That same thing can be said about a bachelor’s degree. I didn’t have offers waiting for me to sift through after I crossed the stage like my parents did. I had to scratch, claw, and bite my way to a post-undergraduate internship. Of course, a lot of that has to do with one’s field of study and career path, but overall, the job market is so cut-throat these days, and so many people have discovered that they have to keep going educationally to get a leg up on the competition and move further along on their career paths.
“You’ll come in at an entry level position and when you do that, if you kiss enough ass, you’ll move up to the next level, which is being the secretary’s secretary!”
Here are some statistics that I managed to procure for your reading pleasure:
-In July of 2010, the unemployment rate for college graduates was 4.7%, up from 2.8% a year earlier, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
-This is much lower than the 9.4% rate for workers with only a high school diploma
-Two-thirds of bachelor’s degree recipients last year graduated with an average debt of about $23,000, according to Finaid.org
-Total debt for borrowers with graduate or professional degrees ranges from $30,000 to $120,000
-The average salary for recent graduates in 2009 and 2010 was $27,000, down 10 percent from the previous year
-Student debt has topped credit card debt (likely to top $1 trillion this year or about $24,000 a person)
-57% of Americans say that college education is not a good value for the money
-A four year degree costs on average $140,000
That’s enough bad news. I just wanted to show the facts (college taught me that). By now, you’re probably thinking that the answer to my initial question is no. College sucks, is a total waste of an investment, and not worth the mountain of debt that you will surely incur. Actually, that can’t be any further from the truth. The thing that many surveys and articles on the topic fail to acknowledge is that college offers a lot that you can’t possibly put a price tag on. While I admit that I hardly remember a thing from my freshman philosophy class, sophomore economics course, junior management seminar, or senior finance class, the lessons outside of the classroom, experiences, and people I added to my network have helped mold me into the person that I am now. College is just as much about getting the tools you need to be successful in your career as it is about sharpening the tools you already have to be successful in life. I met some of my best friends in college. I met people and experienced things that I never would have if I didn’t undertake that debt and go off to school. I’ve seen so many places, learned about so many cultures, and opened my mind to so many new things because of college. There’s no way I can price these because I wouldn’t trade them for the world. College is the time to try new things (for better or for worse), fall on your face, pick yourself up, build a supporting cast around you, learn something, and enjoy the ride. Sure, it’s expensive and tiresome, but it makes for 4, 5, or 6 years of the best years in life.
“You keep it going, man; you keep those books rolling. You pick up those books you’re going to read and not remember and you roll, man. You get that associate’s degree, okay. Then you get your bachelor’s. Then you get your master’s. Then you get your master’s master’s. Then you get your doctrine [sic]. You go, man, then when everybody says quit, you show them those degrees, man.”
The more expensive college gets, the bigger the gap between the educated and uneducated gets. College was never an option for me because both of my parents are college educated, which I count as a blessing. I had to go to college. I realize that not everyone comes from that background. With that in mind, I always applaud those who are the first in their family to go to college and/or graduate. It’s a huge investment and a leap of faith, but one that is so rewarding. Unlike a lot of things in life that we pay for, no one can ever take a college degree away from you once you earn it. You can outgrow clothes, wreck a car, or lose a house, but a degree is yours and yours forever. With that said, is college really worth it? Absolutely and without a doubt, yes.
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