Preparing for College

"Skip College." -- Two Viewpoints

There are two sides to most coins. For the “you gotta go to college” coin, the flip side seems to be getting more diametrically opposed. There’s a significant amount of data out there that reveal how much more one can earn over a lifetime with at least a four-year degree in one’s arsenal. Then there are the arguments against college, coming from such people as Salon.com’s Matthew Saccaro whose rant’s headline states, ” Just say no to college! Why it’s the worst decision a young American can make. For today’s grads, a job is no sure thing, but decades of debt may be. And don’t get me started on the ‘education.'”

For the sake of being fair and balanced here, I’d like to give some exposure to two voices from the skip-college side of the coin. I’ve presented a number of pro-college articles in the past, but now I think we’re seeing a grassroots swell in the “College ain’t necessarily the answer” mindset. I think it prudent to give some (at least superficial) consideration to that point of view.

The prime components comprising anti-college thinking stem from several core realities these days:


– Cost. College is ridiculously expensive for most Americans.

– Jobs. They’re hard to find and that’s “Why College?” for most young people, right?

– Debt. A lifetime of loan payments can be a real turnoff.

There may be other reasons for not going to college, but the above three dwell near the center of the bullseye.

So, the two voices I’d like you to “hear” today come from 22-year-old Jason Aguiar, whose case against college appears here. The other is oneI’ve already mentioned: Matthew Saccaro. I’ll give him some ink too. Let’s start with Jason.

As far as thesis statements go, Jason’s is a punch in the nose:

Skip college. Don’t go to college …

He’s directing this admonition to high school students who are in the process of pondering their futures, or those having their futures pondered for them. I like Jason’s hard-hitting style.

Skip college. Don’t go to college or university. Now I know that may not be something you hear often. In fact, I bet the opposite is drilled into you every single day since you were young. The same happened to me, my family and teachers constantly told me that I had to get good grades in high school, then go to university and get my degree, and that is how I would find a good job. Well, I’m here to tell you that this isn’t the only option. When I was 18, it felt like if I didn’t get into a good school, my life was over and that I had no future ahead of me. So I went to university, studied for four years, and I am about to receive my degree in two weeks. I am $40,000 in debt, and I am unemployed. That is the bad nightmare that you don’t wake up from.

Matthew Saccaro returns that shot with a heavily linked reinforcement of his own:

Let’s start off with the basics. In 2012, 71 percent of all students who graduated accrued some amount of student loan debt, with the average amount of debt soaring to $29,400. More than half of student loans officially became delinquent or in deferral in 2013. New information indicates this trend will only worsen; recent college graduates face the worst unemployment rate in more than 20 years, as well as severe underemployment, with 44 percent of grads saying they could find work but not enough of it. Not even the vaunted STEM fields are immune from the perils of cheap labor, smartsizing, and the Great Recession.

Speaking of links, let me add one of my own: dontgotocollege.com.

To get the full weight of Jason’s and Matthew’s arguments, you have to read their full texts, which I have linked to above. Shucking right down to the cob, as Paul Harvey used to say, let’s cut to Jason’s conclusion:

Think about the next four years. You could spend one year traveling the world, two years starting a few businesses, and one year working three 4-month internships at different organizations. You will be 22 years old, just like all the college graduates. However, you will have more skills and more life experience than anyone with a degree. I went to school for four years, and learned a lot in my many classes that I attended, but I learned more in the four months I worked as an intern. You learn by actually doing something, and not by reading study notes over and over until the sun comes up. This doesn’t mean skip college and sit at home on Facebook all day. Go conquer the world. At 22, I am here to tell you that college (for many) is a scam. Getting a job feels similar to The Hunger Games. Many will be tens of thousands of dollars in debt for years, and move back home with their parents. Skip college; find what you are passionate about; work hard; play hard; travel; create; learn; enjoy.

Okay, Matthew, you’re closing statement is up:

Attending college might be the worst decision you can make as a young adult in America. You’re paying for nothing that you can’t get elsewhere for less money or free, save for the piece of paper with a con man’s signature on it.

I have to be honest (that doesn’t mean that I have to force myself to be honest). Whenever I read strongly worded opinion pieces like this, I wonder what unmentioned circumstances have precipitated such high-horsepower prose. I suppose that Jason and Matthew might be consumer advocate wannabees, but I have a natural governor in my evaluation mechanism that shines a mist of limiting cynicism on what are known as “must statements.”

When I see proclamations such as “Skip college” and “the worst decision a young American can make,” I try to seek some semblance of offsetting balance. So, dear readers, contrast and compare these two strong opinions with pro-college counterpoints. Your mileage may vary from Jason’s and Matthew’s.

However, to end this article, I would like to share a graphic relating to the hub of the wheel of current college-grad misery: debt. Check out the relative size of the debt circles in this depiction:

 

Try to imagine the size of 2013’s circle. Looking at the difference in the size of 1999’s circle (“dot,” really) in comparison with 2011’s, I can’t help but recall a similar astronomical comparison I once saw between the size of the earth and our sun.

Imagining the size of 2013’s debt circle raises a good question: When will the bubble burst? When will the ROI (Return On Investment) of a college education enter the air space of diminishing returns?

Food for thought … lots of thought.

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Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles on College Confidential.