College is not always the right path for everyone

by Catherine Van Weele, Opinion Editor

Since I was in middle school, teachers and faculty forced the notion that everyone should attend college after graduating high school. Taking an alternate route from the traditional college experience was supported, but it was always clear this option was quietly looked down upon.

But now, as a student at a four-year university, I find myself, along with many others, questioning the worth of college.

Today, more and more people are enrolling in college, but is it really worth it?

It seems that many college students want a degree for better job opportunities later on. People with a bachelor’s degree still earn significantly larger salaries, specifically $33,000 higher on average, than people with only a high school degree.

But that is not always the case. Students who graduate in the bottom 25% of their college class, take over four years to complete their bachelors or drop out of college are unlikely to see that pay bump. 

Students don’t usually cite the enrichment of knowledge and cultivation of intellectual thought as a reason for attending college. In fact, the quality of higher education in the United States isn’t quite so high.

College students in the U.S. rank behind on the world stage in critical thinking skills and in using digital technology for problem-solving. This is not an optimistic trend for the future of our economy. 

At universities, the teaching style is often in the form of lectures rather than hands-on, interactive learning. Students are tested with a few examinations that make up the majority of their grades. Studying is usually crammed in right before an exam and the information is mostly forgotten after taking it. General education classes are especially problematic as students often skip classes and don’t have a strong interest in what they are learning.

With schools admitting more students each year, lecture-based learning will only expand to accommodate for growing student population. This classroom structure does not translate well into the workforce.

Individual-based assessments may be efficient for professors that grade the work of hundreds of students, but it doesn’t teach skills like collaboration, communication or creativity, all of which are skills prospective employers look for in hirees. 

A PayScale study found nine out of 10 recent college graduates felt they were well equipped to enter the workforce, while only half of employers thought the same. The more people with a bachelor’s degree, the less worth it holds in the workforce; and today having a bachelor’s degree does not guarantee a good job after graduating.

Despite the lower quality education and lack of workplace preparation, prices are rising rapidly and student loans are skyrocketing out of control.

College has become an industry rather than a place of intellectual stimulation and growth.

Because of this, many young adults are choosing to take a gap year before or during college, enroll in a vocational or trade school or enter straight into the workforce after high school. These are all perfectly viable options for people who decide not to take the “traditional path” to a university after high school.

Carefully consider what you want to pursue as a career and whether a four-year college would help you achieve those goals, because the time and money spent on your college years are not always worth it. 

Learning and growing are not about what college you attended, how many units you get or the number of essays you write. It is about making the most out of the opportunities presented to you.

Catherine Van Weele is a sophomore studying political science. Follow her Twitter @catievanweele.