As I look down the barrel of my impending future as a liberal arts graduate, I ask myself, was it worth it? Was the time, money, effort and mass amounts of stress worth the piece of paper telling the world I know a whole lot about Gothic Literature? I have concluded that no, it has not been worth it, not by a long shot.
The expectations and financial cost of higher education has risen at an astounding rate, and for many it’s to decide if a degree is worth it. According to College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees alone was $9,970 for state residents at public colleges, and $25,620 for out-of-state residents attending public universities in 2017-2018.
The demand for education has skyrocketed with the millennial generation. According to Forbes, undergraduate enrollment has risen 138 percent over the last 40 years.
According to the Pew Research Center, “94 percent of parents expect their child to go to college.”Yet with all that expectation to go to college, the study also showed that “57 percent of Americans say colleges fail to provide students with good value for money spent, and 75 percent of the public says college is too expensive for most Americans to afford.”
So where is all that money and time being put into college actually going?
What we are paying for
A large portion of this profit is not going directly into educating students. Instead of hiring new professors and raising the bar in lecture halls; colleges are raising bureaucratic administration costs.
According to the Goldwater Institute, “Between 1993 and 2007, the number of full-time administrators per 100 students at America’s leading universities grew by 39 percent, while the number of employees engaged in teaching, research or service only grew by 18 percent. Inflation-adjusted spending on administration per student increased by 61 percent during the same period, while instructional spending per student rose 39 percent.”
With all of these price increases, one might assume that the final product of a degree is equally as beneficial as it is costly. Studies have found that this is not the case.
Lack of skills gained
According to the National Center for Education Statistics Literacy survey, the percentage of college graduates proficient in document reading was only 25 percent. Additionally, according to a survey done by Chegg, “Fewer than two in five hiring managers say the recent college graduates they have interviewed in the past two years were completely or very prepared for a job in their field.”
This means after at least four years of study and thousands of dollars of investment, 61 percent of college students are not prepared for their chosen field and 75 percent cannot comprehensively read and understand documental writings. Isn’t that preparation exactly what we are paying and working for?
A post-university marketplace
Now, with these facts in place, one might begin to question what we are to do next. Students in college or preparing for college must make up their minds for the next steps in their futures. While radical reforms on university design, costs, teaching practices and more need to happen, they have not yet, and students are still stuck dealing with the current reality of higher education.
While many can turn to vocational schools for the answer, not everyone is suited for those career paths. Barring professions in some of the STEM fields, most of the educational tracks within a four year liberal arts college are simply not worth the cost, and that the education level received at a university can also be achieved without a traditional school setting.The most commonly cited field for the benefit of self-teaching is computer science. This career path has a learning curve that continuously develops to the point that if you want to stay on top, then you will have to continuously self-teach for your whole career. By the time a college student completes his or her computer science degree, the information they learned will mostly likely be outdated.
While some might need the structure of a university setting to learn, the people that excel within the college sphere would do so without the university. If applied outside of college, the resources put into a degree could be utilized to gain the same, and most likely more knowledge and skill, as within the schooling system. For their part, Universities are setting the bar pretty low anyways with a 25 percent document literacy average. If self-learning is so necessary and successful in computer sciences, why can’t we apply the same principles in other areas? Just because a traditional bachelor’s degree is the norm on which many judge potential and success, it doesn’t mean it is an accurate measure of skill.
While some might feel that they cannot succeed without a university, I encourage those with even the slightest doubt to stay away, apply yourself elsewhere and save the money and stress for something more useful.