The significance of a higher education seems undeniable. Children are taught at a young age that attending college and getting a degree is crucial to getting a good job, which in turn leads to a good life or a higher quality of living. This is drilled into American students from k-3 to the end of high school, resulting in millions of students attending college each year hoping to achieve their elusive dreams.
A majority of people strongly agrees with this idea, according to the Lumina Foundation’s recent Gallup poll “Postsecondary Education Aspirations and Barriers.” Of those polled, 93 percent said they believed a college degree was necessary to find a good job, and 78 percent of the same individuals believed a good job meant a higher quality of life.
The other sentiments many agreed with are similar thoughts ingrained into students from the beginning of their educational careers—the resounding importance of a college education, the lack of value a high school diploma holds on its own in the current job market and the need for more people to attend college to obtain degrees.
These are truths that college students are living and pursuing every day. Those who choose to enter college buy into the educational industrial complex in the hopes of achieving a college degree in order to better maneuver the real world. But this line of thinking is not without its flaws and does not necessarily benefit each and every student.
The Gallup poll unsurprisingly revealed that 79 percent of the people polled do not believe college is affordable for everyone seeking a higher education. The $1.2 trillion the U.S. holds in student debt only raises the question: Is it even worth it? If so many are willing to sign on for years of loan payments, can anyone really afford college?
Tuition decreases are critical to the future of the education system in the U.S. if the idea that a college degree is necessary to achieving one’s goals in life remains the status quo. The amount of money students and their families spend each year on college is a disgusting display of the business education has become because expenses go beyond just tuition. Students must pay for textbooks, computers, art supplies and more just to get by in class. It is an incredibly daunting investment for students to take on, especially when many students are ill-prepared and unsure of how to deal with a college setting.
It makes sense that people continue to buy into the college experience—those four or more years can transform a person—but for many students college is not the right choice, especially those who do not really want to go.
Primary and secondary education should better prepare those students who choose to pursue a college degree because many undeclared majors dabble in interests and classes, wasting money most cannot afford to spend. College is certainly a time to explore interests and potential career paths, but going into an experience with no clue as to what one hopes to achieve is reckless.
Students should also be made aware of other, more affordable educational avenues such as associate’s degrees and certification programs. Unfortunately, the choice to pursue these options are often looked down upon as it has been drilled into the American student that a 4-year college degree is the gold standard in higher education and the only way to obtains success.
Nevertheless, colleges must change and adapt to better educate and accommodate its student bodies—student bodies that are not only becoming more diverse, but sometimes even more skilled, talented and aware of the world than those who are teaching them. According to the Gallup poll, 80 percent of those polled agree that changes must be made within colleges in order for them to better serve the demands of their students.
If anything, this is the poll’s most significant finding. It would seem that if so many people are aware of the changes that must be and should be made to higher education, then many would make the moves to do so. However, change—positive, powerful change that benefits students—remains a far-off pipe dream.