Is College Worth It? Join Youth Time Controversy

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For many years, higher education institutions have been considered the main societal destination for people seeking knowledge and degrees that will help them find jobs. Colleges and universities all around the world are enduring a crisis of faith among the public.

Unlike decades ago, many higher education experts believe that the educational system of the twenty-first century is self-destructing; the major changes that have happened in universities and colleges have confused individuals about whether or not to apply for college. The reason for this hesitation is mainly the cost of tuition which has significantly increased. Colleges and universities should not be defined in financial terms; they are not a financial investment. They exist to assist students in developing their fields of interests, inspire them to cultivate knowledge and virtues essential to prepare them for their future careers, making them better people. For these reasons, many are questioning whether or not college is still a worthwhile investment in a time where everything, including education, is measured in dollars.

“Is College worth it?” is the title of a bestseller by William Bennett, former Secretary of Education and Liberal Arts graduate. This book offers a modern idea about the need for education and for having a degree. The book also exposes the broken promise of higher education. When assessing the value of a college degree, Bennett offers very interesting facts about American colleges and what happens to most of the students who go there. More Americans are going to college or want to apply for college than ever before. Many graduates, however, are buried in debt with very few job opportunities.

Bennett is not arguing that Americans should stop sending their children to college or that students should not consider going to college. He says that parents should not automatically or reflexively decide to send their kids to college. It is a decision that requires much thought. It is a major decision with many consequences. Researching the best option for each individual is important.

“We have about 21 million people in higher education, and about half the people who start four year colleges don’t finish,” Bennett tells the media*. “Those who do finish, who graduated in 2011 – half were either unemployed or radically underemployed and in debt.” The problem according to Bennett is that students go to college to major in less-marketable fields, and keep taking on debt to do so. He suggests alternatives to a traditional four-year college that include entering the workforce prior to college, going to a two-year community college or even joining the military.

It might seem that Bennett is so disillusioned with the higher education system that he is actually offering alternatives that for some people may sound unreasonable. However, he believes that it is important to differentiate between the interests and the needs. Traditionally, students attend college to study their passions or what they think they need for their future career. Unless one combines his passion with research into the job market, the prospects of finding success after college are not strong.

People now define universities and colleges by their costs; this rigid definition reflects a failure in the system of higher education. The increasing cost of tuition is one of many factors that concerns individuals who are looking at colleges. This idea is paralleled by the following analogy: Imagine you have a certain amount of money that you want to spend on a trip, rather than selecting your favorite destination, you must settle for what is the cheapest. Students had shifted from qualitative thinking to quantitative thinking and this does not bode well for the future of education.

One of many expectations about college life is that some students will gain new experiences, make new friends and develop their character. In reality, others are depressed, lonely and uncertain about what they are studying, drifting from major to major until eventually they graduate with whatever degree is easiest, and most of all a lot of debt. In some cases they do not even graduate, but still have a lot of debt to pay back. In addition to the two examples I mentioned, college in some cases can be the beginning of problems like drugs, drinking or delinquency that could deprive them from having a normal, healthy adulthood.

This contradiction makes me question, how is it possible for college, an ideal place for seeking knowledge, to have all these negative consequences on students. Nothing is perfect; college is full of very different ideas, opinions and judgments. For some people, college might be the right answer, but not for everyone. “Go to the fanciest college you can get into” is bad advice, so is going to college just because everyone else is.

Most people would agree that the purpose of going to college is to earn a degree that will help them get a job, earn money and be independent. However, some people are not able to go to college because they cannot afford it, others chose not to. These people are condemned to stay unemployed or under-employed even though they might have the skills and the experiences required for the position. People with a college degree might also get a job that they do not deserve or maintain. I believe this is a result of the common way of thinking, which is not necessarily wrong, but it is narrow-minded in a way that does not give a chance to other possibilities to happen.

When parents send their children to junior high or to high school, they do not think about it the same way as when they send them to college. Parents never think that high school is a preparatory process for their kids to pursue their future career. It feels more like a step they have to go through before going to college. Once they graduate from high school, the idea of applying for college and having the best job starts to appear to eventually become a priority. This shows that people usually link college with lucrative purposes and pre-college education with knowledge which, I believe shows selfishness and lack of understanding. A good job is supposed to be a job that makes you feel comfortable and ready for more challenges and exploring more opportunities.

There is a quote in Latin that says “Damnat Quod Non Intelligunt.” It translates to “They condemn what they do not understand.” The reason why I am mentioning this is that because the human nature is full of judgments. We are drawn to ideas that are ready, that do not need any further exploration. College means jobs, jobs mean money, and money means good, easy life. If this was the case, it would work in both directions, so it would be correct to say: Life means money, money means jobs, and jobs mean college. Does not that sound materialistic? Selfish? Maybe even inhuman?

Education and its modernization is one of the key topics of the Youth Time movement activities. If you have your own ideas on how to develop educational system and want your voice to be heard, join YT project called New Paradigm of Education.

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