Thursday, October 18, 2012

I Don`t Follow, I Lead

          I read several of the essays in Share or Die but the one that really lit a fire inside me was "Unprepared From Elite College to the Job Market" by Sarah Idzik. You may can guess from the title that this was not the most uplifting thing that I have ever read, even though at the end of the essay she did talk about her hope for the future. She recounts her story from being a straight A high school student like so many of us are, to an unprepared college freshman where she finds her place very quickly, but then has to move on to the "real world" where its not all peaches and cream like she thought it would be. The only work she can find is a dead end job at a travel agency, and she can only barely make rent even though the work makes her miserable. Finally, she decides to quit her job and move to a new city where she can hopefully find her place in the world, but who knows, she could still be searching.

          After I finished reading this essay, at first I was very confused. I felt a little hopeless and I definitely had no idea what I could get out of that feeling to write about. Ever since I got to college I hear this same story told a million different ways. It was even a main point in the Presidential Debate Tuesday night. So once again I began to wonder, "Why am I even here if I`ll have the same future either way?" Then I remembered one small section of the essay that caught my attention as I was meditating on what I had read, "Out of everyone I knew, there was only one real success story - only one person who had secured a job in the appropriate field that set her on the career path she wanted." The second this sentence came to mind I knew that the one in a million who made it would be me. That`s why I`m in college learning and working toward a degree. I have a dream, don`t all of us? So why should we let the
      photo credit: deeplifequotes via photopin cc         possibility of failure hold us back? The "real world" is a tough and cruel place and the job market isn`t any better, but a few of us will make it. While most will give up the dream out of fear, and others will put it off until a "better time", some of us will push through and come out on top where we`ve always wanted to be. 

          In our english class we talk about the fact that the old jobs aren`t coming back, that the old economy is part of the past and a new one is on the way, the jobs that will be needed ten years from now are unknown to everyone at this point. That is why my sights aren`t set on getting an outdated job that there are fewer and fewer of every day. My goal, and I`m sure some of yours too, is to be a part of that future. I am getting an education, not so I can sit on the sidelines and wait until the game is won, but so that four years from now I can hit the ground running and be a player in this new world that is developing around us. I`m not just going to be a part of the future, I`m going to build it. That`s why I am in college, so I can have a foundation for my dreams.                      photo credit: BB2G_Images via photopin cc    Somy point all of you is this: no, not everyone has                                                                                   a happy ending, but you can be that one in a million. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why Do They Want Us To Go To College?

          When I began researching and learning about this topic, "Is College (Good) Enough?" I realized that I was finding more questions than answers. Does college teach us what we need to know? Is it really worth the price? And most importantly to me, is college the same amount of "good" for everyone?

          I`d like to start out by addressing the question, does college teach us what we need to know? There are many people who would argue both sides. John Coleman takes the side that it doesn`t. He points out the bad habits that a learning environment like college plants inside even the most brilliant of minds. No matter how motivated or intelligent a new college grad is, they come out not fully prepared for a work environment. They look out for only themselves, are too perfection oriented, fear failure, and don`t understand true leadership. Noam Chomsky concurs with his belief that we are educated the "right way: Limit their perspectives and understanding, discourage free and independent thought, and train them for obedience." But I`m not sure I agree with Chomsky about that. On the other side of the argument lie those who insist college is the only way to be educated. Most employers also lie on this side considering you are much more likely get a job with a college degree on your resume. I`m rather middle of the road on this issue. I believe that in most cases college gives you a basic foundation that you can build a career around. No, it can`t teach you everything but you have to start somewhere. In my case, no one would even consider hiring an engineer who didn`t know how to do higher level math. Nothing beats experience but most employers don`t want to teach you every detail of a job, they expect you to come in with the basics. On the other hand, many careers still don`t require a day of formal college education. If that`s the field you are pursuing then college cannot at all help you.

          My next question is, is it really worth the price? Years ago this was not a question at all. Of course that was back when the line between the cost of a college degree and the financial stability it promised in the future was a mile wide and before people were digging themselves into an unescapable hole of debt. Today, for many people, that line is very thin if it is still there at all. It is true that, while its hard for anyone to find a job right now, the unemployment rate for a college graduate is half that of someone who only has a high school diploma. The key word here though is "graduate". The number of college dropouts is growing just as fast the number of people attending, and the worst part is some of those dropouts are attending on borrowed money that they will never be able to pay back. According to The Case Against College Education, "40% of kids who enroll in college don`t get a degree within six years." But, with the influx in students, no matter how many graduate, came an influx in cost as well. According to Megan McArdle, "The average price of all goods and services has risen about 50 percent. But the price of a college education has nearly doubled in that time." Where there is money to be made someone will always find a way to take advantage of it. So my answer to this question is, yes it is worth the cost, but only for some people. Not everyone will benefit from going to college especially if they throw money into something they won`t finish. If you don`t have to go to college and you can`t afford it then don`t go.

          So this brings me to my final point, is college the same amount of "good" for everyone? My answer is, simply, no. Not everyone needs to or should go to college. College is not for partying or escaping your parents or "discovering yourself". Its for getting an education so you can move on with your life. If you aren`t going to put forth the effort to truly learn and earn your degree then you aren`t doing anyone any favors by going to college and throwing away money. If you are going through the motions of college without really knowing why you`re here or without having a goal then you should stop spending the money and figure out your plans somewhere else. You may end up choosing a career  that doesn`t involve a college degree and you`ll be happy you didn`t waste your time chasing something useless to you. Andrew Rotherham points out that "...only 40 percent of Americans felt that colleges provided an 'excellent' or 'good' value for the money. At the same time, 86 percent or college graduates still felt the investment was a good one for them." Again the key word is "graduate".

          My answer to whether or not college is good enough is that there is no specific answer. It depends on why you are in college in the first place. Do you really want or need to be there? Can you afford to be there? Are you wasting your time? Do you have a goal you are trying to reach? Each and every person has to decide for themselves whether or not college is good enough for them. They need to sit down and weigh the pros and cons of college for both them and the people around them. They also need to consider the financial burden and really understand if the pay off will outweigh the cost or if they will simply roll their debt off onto someone else.