The Road to Opportunity?
Generations of Americans have been told that college is the road to a better life, that without a degree you will likely find yourself trapped in a dead end job and miserable. The children of America are taught to visualize the future through the increasingly narrow lens of a college education. But we have the message all wrong for two reasons.
1. College Isn't Always Financially Rewarding
This is important. To any disillusioned lower or middle class high school student, please take in this message. College is extremely expensive and the costs just continue to rise! For some the expense pays off, but for many it does not.
The rise in the cost of education has far outpaced the growth of income over the past half century. Every year our students pay more and more to become educated at the collegiate level. Most students have to take out loans to pay tuition while in school. Let's take a look.
Here is the equally bleak picture. This shows that just in the ten years between 2001 and 2011, student loan debt grew by 500%. 500%!!! Right now, the average college graduate is $29,900 in debt. That's a high end car, a down payment on a house, maybe even a year's worth of income. That does not even account for the four years you spent NOT earning any money because you were in school. Not to mention the addition expense for those who continue on to earn advanced degrees.
What's worse is that many students graduate from college and begin in their career paths realizing that they are completely unprepared for life after graduation. College does not always teach the skills and concepts needed to succeed in the professional world. Classroom learning is always different from life after graduation and many people graduate mired in debt and may begin to regret all of those years in a classroom.
2. Money Isn't the Point of Education
Based on point #1 you may think that I am someone who thinks only about the financial impacts of college on life, but this isn't true. What I find even more important is arguably a bit more subtle. Society tells us that money is the point of education, but it isn't. Education is the point of education.
Studying art, philosophy, music, literature, history, psychology, sociology, archaeology, latin and / or anything else is not supposed to make you rich. It is supposed to teach you something about the world and allow you to develop a passion for something and a greater understanding of the society in which you live.
If you find something that you love to study, go and learn about it, become an expert. Frame your life around something that you are passionate about. Do something because you love it, not because you think it will reward you with a fat paycheck. You will be much happier following your dreams than doing something just for the money.
Education and money are two completely separate things, so please treat them as such.
Really my point is that we are teaching our children the wrong thing. We should be teaching our kids to love learning and not dollar signs. Life is really about doing what you love and finding happiness and not becoming rich. If you think that those two things are always one in the same you may be in for a wake up call the day that you graduate.