Is College Worth It For Our Generation?

Is a college degree a worthwhile investment? Is going to college the best choice?

In a well-worn quote, Bob Dylan once rattled, “The times they are-a changin’.” How right he was. In this day and age, we are seeing one of the premier institutions of our American society called into question, our colleges and universities. The degrees: bachelor’s, master’s, the doctorate. With each successive increase of years of studying under the belt, the respect rises: “Dr. Hogue,” if I had a doctorate, how good does that sound?

But in the economic pinch we find ourselves in, the degrees do not seem to be translating to what they project; money. In fact, people with a Ph.D and who are on food stamps is at an all time high. To quote the NPR article, “360,000 of the 22 million Americans with graduate degrees receive some kind of public assistance.” A degree doesn’t mean money like it always seemed it would. Yet, college enrollment has been steadily on the rise, all the while going to college is more expensive than ever.

When in Doubt, Blame the Boomers

Maybe it’s our baby boomer parents, the generation that really invented college as we know it today. The accessible place where everyone should go to get a degree, then buy a house, then start a family, and then have a career tailor-made for people who went to college. But this definition of college cannot be the end all be all. It has to keep transforming to fit the times. Take a look at the Ivy League during the late 19th and early 20th century. Universities were a very different and exclusive place. Today, we would never have to know how to write Latin and Greek “with the accents” as well as being able to “demonstrate knowledge of “the whole of Virgil,” Caesar’s Commentaries, and Felton’s Greek Reader or comparable texts.” And that's just the entrance exam!

Compared to this, college today is for everyone and it should be. So back to the question at hand, is college worth it?

The answer is yes, it just needs to keep transforming.

Learning for the Sake of Learning

As humans we have a desire to learn and college is the place where we should be free to pursue any educational endeavor, not for a career, but for ourselves. I think the four years of high school, then four years of college model is outdated. College should come when a person knows what they want to study and a degree should not be a prerequisite of a job, rather it should be a result. Many things that I take a genuine interest in and want to learn about I only realized after I got out of college; college should be the place to gain knowledge for the sake of it; not a degree factory.

College Anytime, Anywhere

In terms of President Obama’s educational vision, I think he is on the right track in praising community colleges and affordable institutions. Colleges need to be even more accessible and it is an institution that should be respected as a place for specific, subject-based learning. Subjects with intrinsic interest to a person; if you like literature, study literature, if you like architecture, study architecture, if you want to pick up a trade, do it.

The debate is going in the wrong direction if we call college a place for elitist. We cannot put a basic need for all humans on a pedestal. Humans have a natural desire to learn and college needs to adapt and become a place where people, regardless of age, wealth, or race can do it.

A Place for the Critics

Above all, college is a place where we put our critical thinking to the test. We debate, learn, debate some more, and learn some more. It is a place where people meet others who share like-minded pursuits and they can shape each others education. It is a place for open communication on subjects that will shape the future. No one (and no college) can shut people out of that.

A degree does not mean that we will make money and colleges as well as companies cannot use a degree as the go-to criteria for success. College also does not translate to a more interesting job. College should be nothing more than a place for specific learning and mastery of a subject; a subject of intrinsic interest. It should be public, affordable (especially where interest rates on loans are concerned, can’t we keep them low already?) and it should be sold on the merit of the faculty who teach there and the subjects themselves.

College is expensive and it is starting to show a disconnection with Americans as to what it actually does for people. College needs to make education the center of its market. It needs to be affordable, it needs to be adaptable and people should be able to go to college when it is convenient in their lives; they should not be herded by high school guidance counselors or college admissions.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Adam Hogue

Adam Hogue is currently living, working and writing in Providence, RI. For the past two years, he has been living and working as an expat in Gwangju, Korea. He has been a contributing writer for Policymic with articles being shared by NPR and Salon Magazine. He is an avid reader who enjoys good humor. While overseas, he traveled through Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia and New Zealand. Adam has a strong belief that the essay and #longreads will never go out of style.

MORE FROM

Dow Jones won’t talk about its reported pay gap problem

A study released by the union representing Dow Jones employees found evidence of a "significant pay gap between men and women" who had the same job title and level of experience.

Mom slams ACA repeal, shows what's at stake in a tweetstorm about son's health

This mom says that without the ACA, her son wouldn't get the medical care he desperately needs.

Theresa May announces pact with Northern Ireland's conservative DUP

10 of the DUP's MPs will vote alongside May's party in exchange for more than $1 billion of funds.

Supreme Court will hear case of baker who refused service to gay couples on religious grounds

The Supreme Court will take on the case of a bakery owner who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple.

'Hot Mic' podcast: Health care opposition, Trump on Russian meddling & Pakistan tanker explosion

The important stories to get you caught up for Monday morning.

Dozens missing after tourist boat carrying more than 160 passengers sinks in Colombia

At least six people are confirmed dead and dozens more unaccounted for.

Dow Jones won’t talk about its reported pay gap problem

A study released by the union representing Dow Jones employees found evidence of a "significant pay gap between men and women" who had the same job title and level of experience.

Mom slams ACA repeal, shows what's at stake in a tweetstorm about son's health

This mom says that without the ACA, her son wouldn't get the medical care he desperately needs.

Theresa May announces pact with Northern Ireland's conservative DUP

10 of the DUP's MPs will vote alongside May's party in exchange for more than $1 billion of funds.

Supreme Court will hear case of baker who refused service to gay couples on religious grounds

The Supreme Court will take on the case of a bakery owner who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple.

'Hot Mic' podcast: Health care opposition, Trump on Russian meddling & Pakistan tanker explosion

The important stories to get you caught up for Monday morning.

Dozens missing after tourist boat carrying more than 160 passengers sinks in Colombia

At least six people are confirmed dead and dozens more unaccounted for.