• Flux Magazine

"The Paradox of Higher Education" by Noelle S. Dahl

We are conditioned to believe that higher education and financial success are inextricably linked. That without a prestigious degree, you are condemned to civil servitude. As some may see this social pressure as an inspiration to academically excel, it may be doing young adults harm more than good in the end.


We are all asked the identical question in our childhood— what do you want to be when you grow up? As children, our answers are innocent and without much thought. Astronaut. Doctor. In my case, veterinarian or as I so I eloquently described it, “an animal doctor”. Whether I was an animal aspiring to be a doctor or a veterinarian, children are naive to the schooling behind these vocations. Flash forward ten years and this question becomes daunting. What do you want to be? An exceptionally small number of us, as teenagers, truly know what we would like to pursue for the rest of our lives. And even those of us who do do not escape the social pressure of choosing a path that may not have a reputation for being financially abundant.


Regardless, the bulk of high school students fall victim to this pressure and eventually get accepted into college. The thought of moving away from home, meeting new people, and choosing your area of study may sound very inviting, but is it the education or the college experience itself that we’re paying for? Unless you are fortunate enough to have family members who can afford to shell out the expenses of your four year degree, college is costly, to say the least. Students drown in debt and struggle to obtain a car and homeownership and in some cases, even push aside marriage due to this financial burden.


We often pay for the prestige of the university title, not the quality of the education and at what cost? Students are financially selling their souls to universities with the justification that they will procure a high paying job after they graduate. Yet there is no certainty in this. The validity of this risk is reasonable if your area of study is a calculated investment, such as a physician or attorney rather than attaining a degree in basket weaving which is virtually pointless. And if the party scene is exclusively what attracts you to college, I’d encourage you to purchase a Coachella ticket instead. You’ll get the same experience in one weekend than your entire college education for a fraction of the price.


The bottom line is this—we should not be contributing to the concept that one must have a college education to succeed. Some of the most successful people in the world are, in fact, college dropouts. And they are laughing to the bank. Now that is a risk even I am unwilling to take, but the point remains. You do not need to go to college to be successful. Just because you are on campus does not mean you will retain the information that is necessary for your future career. Instead of paying for professors to regurgitate bias nonsense to endless head nodders, reflect on what you want out of your education. Does your desired vocation depend upon the prestige of a university or is the pressure of going to a highly regarded college what sways your decision? I am not saying that higher education is not worth it, but I do not approve of the pressure involved with making this decision which could ultimately lead to financial wreckage in adults starting off.


So while your peers may graduate with respected degrees, they may also be graduating with a tremendous amount of debt. Forget the pressure. Forget the prestige. Consider the options that will leave you with the best chance of attaining your personal life goals and, in reality, you may be thanking yourself in the long run.

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