In a TakePart.com article, author Liz Dwyer makes claims that in a “prestigious” poll, only 44% of Americans believe going to college is “very important.” While it remains true that 44% of those polled may not place much value on a college education, only 1,000 people were actually polled.
Those numbers can hardly be said to reflect general trends in the attitude of Americans.
Dwyer cites another poll, this one by the Bureau of Labor Statistics: “…6 percent of Americans with only a high school diploma are unemployed. In comparison, only 3.6 percent of Americans with a bachelor’s degree or higher are unemployed.”
Once again, those numbers are scant justification for Dwyer’s claim that “a college degree is the best guarantee of both employment and earning ability.” The probable reason behind the 2.4% discrepancy is that those who are willing to go through the rigors of higher education are simply more likely to succeed because it requires no small amount of hard work, and hard workers are highly desirable. Additionally, many who go on to get a Baccalaureate or higher degree are doing so to get a job in a specific field, which is more likely to use them because they make up a smaller and more qualified pool of candidates.
How do I know? Because there are many more jobs available that don’t require college degrees than those that do. Many of them pay well, in fact; they just don’t come with the “prestigious” pre-requisite of a costly and time-consuming college degree.
A variation between 3.6 and 6% is simply not enough to conclude, even loosely, that if you don’t go to college you’re unemployable, or significantly less so. The important thing to note is that if you’ve at least graduated college, you have about as good a chance at landing a job as someone who obtained an Associate Degree.
If it seems like your parents set you up for massive debt and possible failure, it’s because they’re part of a generation in which a college degree really did set you apart. Nowadays, it’s just, expected even for many entry-level data entry or clerical positions (otherwise known by those who have done it as “typing and filing stuff”). Point in fact, you probably know more people who are in college or have graduated than people who dropped out or never even enrolled. For your parents, college might have made the difference between achieving middle-class respectability or lower-class mediocrity. For you, it means beginning adult life under the burdensome weight of debt that you may not be able to pay off for decades.
Starting out on such a path is never a decision anyone should take lightly.
“Why didn’t my teachers or professors tell me any of this?”
Maybe they’re optimists. Maybe they’ve been vetted by education institutions to groom young pupils’ minds in preparation for a presumed career in academia. Maybe because they’re from the same generation as your parents. Whatever the reason, having mentors in your life who assume you’ll be going on to college is probably much better for your self-esteem than telling you, “don’t worry about all that, Little Johnny. You’ll probably find your success in life as a sanitation worker.”
“Then why is our generation still being told that we need a degree?”
Strictly speaking, because having millions of malleable young minds racking up huge bills with tuition, books, and housing fees is infinitely more profitable than telling them the truth: most of them are better off mastering practical skills that have a range of applications.
If you’re an aspiring artist, writer, chef, small business owner, or just intend to get by in life doing whatever comes along, but still intend to get a college degree, I’m sorry to say you’ve been suckered into one of the biggest pyramid schemes of your time. College doesn’t need you, you don’t need it, and you’ll save a hell of a lot of money in the long run if you go about climbing up the socioeconomic ladder the old-fashioned way: through working at it.
“How do I know if I Made the right choice?”
First things first; you need to press pause and hash a few things out with yourself. Take inventory of the following questions, and if you’re not sure of the answers, perhaps it’s time to figure them out.
- What makes you happy?
- What are you good at?
- What are your goals in life?
- When you picture yourself in 10 years, what are you doing? Where do you live? What have you achieved?
- Do any of these things require a college degree?
If your answer to the last questions is a resounding “no” or you’re simply not sure of your answers, then you would probably benefit from taking some time off to assess your goals. Otherwise, you may be one of many thousands of students wasting your time in college. It’s an expensive avenue of self-exploration, especially if you’re not sure what you want to get out of the experience.
The fact is that we can’t all be astronauts, scientists, doctors, nurses, lawyers, CEOs, or business owners, and we can’t all earn a six-figure salary, much as we each might like to. Society is largely supported by its infrastructure – that is, the overlooked and under-applauded working-class who keep things running on a day-to-day basis.
The people whose jobs keep being outsourced to developing countries like China and Mexico by industry leaders who maintain that they need more college graduates to fill the gap; the people whose jobs you don’t want to do, because it means pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, getting your hands dirty, and doing things the hard way; the people who produce, transport, and sometimes sell the goods and services you spend your money on, because you bought into the inflated notion that we all need to live (and apparently spend) like kings.
Yeah, those people… colloquially referred to by Those Who Made It as “the little people.”