Twelve 20-somethings chronicle their lives for WBUR. Learn more.
A college education is a necessity in today’s America. This is no more evident than within our public school system, where the mantra is that all students can and will attend college. At the elementary school where I worked last year, students were bombarded with this message on all fronts: from the college pennants and posters plastered on the walls, to the college cheers they were taught, down to the school’s mission that 100 percent of the students would go to college.
With this mission, the public school system has successfully created a mold that all students need to fit into: that of a college student. Colleges essentially have become nearly mandatory for any who wish to make a decent salary above minimum wage, yet most who attend will work their whole careers just to pay off student loans that made it possible for them to make said wage. Not to mention the fact that students who receive a Bachelor’s degree enter into an over-saturated marketplace that devalues the higher education they just received, and has turned their Bachelor’s into the near-equivalent of a high-school diploma.
I strongly believe that my college education was worthwhile and there is little that I would choose to do differently if given a second chance. I attended a state school, which was both affordable and academically strong. I received a strong education and was given numerous opportunities for personal growth and professional advancement. I’m a strong believer that a student takes what they can from education that is presented to them. In my own mind, little opportunities separate a private from a public school, aside from the name.
That being said, if I were to change one aspect of my college career, I would have chosen a degree in a field of science rather than liberal arts. It’s evident that the liberal arts are being pushed aside and devalued in America. Once the cornerstone of higher education, liberal art degrees today are barely worth the money spent to attain them. While I am passionate and love working within the field of history, it’s turned out to be a difficult field to get into due to lay-offs and lack of funding for memory institutions and museums.
Graduate school is a necessity in many of the humanities, and the best-paying positions require at least an MA. As such, I am currently enrolled in an MA program at another state school. At present, I am satisfied with my graduate education and have been granted further opportunities and professional growth in the field due to it.
I do not regret studying history, but, if I were to go back, I would study history independently while moving through a science track that would allow me to make a very sizable salary within a few years of leaving college. This upsets me as a historian, because it’s depressing that in the United States today one cannot comfortably follow their passions and academic interests as we were told to believe in elementary school.
The school that I chose had prepared me well for life after college. Sure I had a few bumps, but everything has since turned out fine. Luckily, by choosing a state school and doing well enough to receive scholarships, I may make it out with only a fraction of the student loan debt a lot of my friends have to their names. And I find myself in the same rather abysmal employment situations as friends who went to private schools and have a much larger debt burden than myself, further satisfying my choice to have attended a state school.
While I wouldn’t trade my college experience for anything, as the friends, memories, and experiences it led me to have been the best years of my life, I do believe that our nation is at a pivotal moment in terms of higher education. Burdening new graduates with debt and education costs that grow with each passing year is not sustainable, and I believe it is the duty of our government to look toward reform sooner rather than later.