I recently finished watching the PBS documentary Declining by Degrees: Higher Ed at Risk (it is available on Netflix streaming right now and you can also pick up a copy of the DVD from PBS). It is a little dated as it aired in 2005 so the students it documents are from the early 2000’s, but I think a lot of the issues raised in the documentary still hold true today. I wanted to take a few paragraphs here to think about this given the work I do and the study I am undertaking with the UNCC writing project this summer.
There are many issues brought up in the documentary regarding higher education, but what I found myself regularly draw to were the stories of the cost. I mean this here mostly in a financial sense, but (for many students) there is also the emotional and intellectual strain that comes with trying to obtain more than a high school diploma.
Is a college education worth it? Should a student be forking over tens of thousands of dollars in loans etc just to get a degree that might help them get a higher paying job. Sure, they might get that higher paying job but then how long will it take them to pay back the loans? Is it, therefore, better to just take your diploma and make less but not be saddled with that kind of debt? Does it depend on how you define the American Dream? And, I’m not even going into the discussion of going on for Master’s (like what I have) and PhD programs (which I am still considering).
And should college just be about getting you ready for a job? What ever happened to study just for the sake of broadening your mind? Can we, however, in our current economy afford to study just because we are interested in a topic?
I’m asking a lot of questions and I may not have the answers but I felt for the girl who was accepted to NYU but couldn’t imagine saddling her parents with a ton of debt just so she could go. Instead she stayed home and attended her local community college while working so that she ends debt free after her two year degree. Some people say was that a loss for her, but if I was talking to her I’d say: good work, I wish I had known about the community college program when I was graduating from high school; it could have saved me a lot of debt and heartache!
There was also the girl who was working nights full-time while trying to go to school full-time. Yeah, been there to but did my grades suffer? Yes. Did my job performance probably suffer? A bit, but I’m sure I was less concerned with job performance than my grades.
Is a college education: two year, four year etc still worth it? What do you guys think? Can you get by without a degree? What is the best way to fund one?
Just some questions that I’m posing right now. I’d love to hear from my regular readers and any of my UNCC Writing Project Peeps on their concerns and/or thoughts.