The contentious debate about college attendance has long circled its wagons around who is cut out for higher education and who isn’t.
Realistically, not everyone is a billionaire “Pointdexter” who’s designed to reinvent the wheel or wield his millions in order to single-handedly man the human race’s first mission to Mars. With varying levels of innate intellect, financial security and cultural privilege, a plurality of young Americans don’t look to college as their next step.
Actually, many students feel they lack the smarts, the right skin tone or the wellspring of family money it takes to pay for it all. Of course, they wonder, “Is college right for me? Is it even possible?”
There are those of us who must “put the pedal to the metal” and lean into a rigorous course load, like the University of California’s a-g curriculum, which may be beyond our intellectual prowess at first. We have to work harder to perform half as well.
Furthermore, students must have the opportunity to challenge themselves. If they attend overcrowded, underfunded high schools, how can they work hard to achieve if they don’t have a class in which they can achieve?
The National Association of Secondary Principals (NASSP) contends that every student, regardless of natural ability or privileged status, should be encouraged to engage in an academically demanding high school curriculum in preparation for higher education.
Raising expectations for all students to enroll in rigorous courses, including AP, dual-credit courses, or the International Baccalaureate, is crucial, particularly for students who have historically been under-represented in those courses. In too many schools, high-level courses are open to only a select group of high-achieving students, thus perpetuating historical inequalities in academic outcomes.
Simply put, all students require adequate resources and high academic expectations to encourage their aspirations toward higher education.
Furthermore, a high IQ and deep pockets are not the sole markers of academic success; some educators argue that students who possess curiosity and dedication are on par with the naturally brilliant and the fortunately wealthy. According to the Atlantic’s scholarly article, “Schools Are Missing What Matters About Learning,” “Having a ‘hungry mind’ has been shown to be a core determinant of academic achievement, rivaling the prediction power of IQ.”
With the right combination of equitable resources, motivation from family and school leaders, and the qualities of determination and curiosity, college can be more than a mere pipe dream.
With that said, experts of every discipline argue college isn’t for everyone. Numerous publications from the New York Times and Forbes to Robert Reich, the Brookings Institution and National Association of Scholars have all bolstered the notion that college is not the right move for certain demographics: the poor, minority groups, gifted athletes, average students, or the mechanically inclined.
Without doubt, college is a pricy and demanding investment. Perhaps a 4-year degree isn’t for everyone…
But, the argument against college includes a laundry list of half-truths at best. Here’s a smattering.
“College is too expensive. I’m better off without the debt.”
Everyone is better off without debt, but scholarships, grants, smart financial planning, and work-study programs are abundant and will offset the cost.
College is rife with “liberal” ideology.
In some corners, but not all. Try accounting or business.
College education hasn’t solved every social ill and cultural inequity.
Let’s get everyone a higher education and then reexamine the issue. Only 33.4% of the adult population has earned a 4-year degree or higher according to the US Census Bureau.
The good schools are only meant for rich kids.
Not at accredited public universities
Over 40% of college graduates land jobs outside their fields of study.
College grads have a higher likelihood of landing a decent paying job in general. Why should it matter if the job differs from the degree?
I’m self-taught. I don’t need college to teach me what I already know.
Aren’t we all self-taught? And Don’t we all know what we already know?
Ultimately, the consensus in the anti-college camp is that trade school or vocational training is the better alternative. By all means, some people are certainly more mechanically inclined or “good with their hands,” and clearly not everyone is an intellectual giant.
But, isn’t it possible that some college, outside of vocational school, is indeed right for most students?
What if students, who are not convinced by the 4-year degree trajectory, completed the equivalent of an associate’s degree?
What if these students had a genuine experience exploring various fields, philosophies, and disciplines as young adults through a community college general education program that exposes them to numerous schools of thought and career options?
What if the cost of a community college education were affordable? What if students could complete a 2-year program debt free?
What if all young adults had the benefit of a thorough civic education, which is not adequately addressed in secondary school?
Wouldn’t students be better prepared to make the decision among plumbing, philosophy or biomechanics as the best career path once they’ve investigated them first hand as adults?
The decision too often comes down to the difference between a short-term paycheck and higher education’s long-term payoff.
So, imagining that there are solutions to all of the barriers blocking our leap toward higher education, let’s highlight
10 essential benefits of a college education:
You are more employable, within and outside of your major of study.
You are more employable internationally. Unless you’re a celebrated chef or renowned athlete, international employers want to see a college education on the American resume.
Over the course of a lifetime, you will earn a higher income.
You will harness a greater understanding of society and how to navigate it.
Your literacy in many aspects of life will improve.
You will learn about reality beyond the narrow lens of your job.
That degree or “piece of paper” demonstrates you’ve accomplished something difficult, which builds confidence and character.
You will build financial and social networks that may endure over your lifetime.
You’ll have access to university resources, such as healthcare, career readiness and job connections you wouldn’t otherwise have.
Learning is a good thing.
There will always be exceptions, but there is far more to gain from a college education at an accredited university than there is to lose.
Stay tuned for more on the education front during this holiday season!