The education reform movement of the day has declared that all students will be prepared to attend a 4-year college. Over and over I have heard this mantra, my obligation as a teacher and a measure of my success if by getting students into college. Nevermind the inability to pay for it, or the everlasting debt, or the most extreme debt – when one does not actually finish college but the debts remain. Yet as the mentors to young people, we rarely have an answer when those financial aid offers come in. I had a frank conversation with my students about just how much they will owe and how I was smacked in the face to discover that my student loan interest rate was almost double my mortgage rate. But at the end, when they wanted to know if it was worth it, I had to concede to our societies consensus that those diplomas are magical pieces of paper – granting you three wishes to use wisely. This article presents an extraordinary case as to how college has become a pyramid scheme:
My only qualm with this logic is that the actual learning that occurs in institutions of higher learning can be great. My academic time was guided by some of the greatest thinkers I have ever encountered and helped me to view the world through the lenses of Marx, Foucault, post-modernism, truth, love, poetry, and revolution. It was a time designated to closely examining the world and understanding what has gotten us to this dismal place we now see. This kind of learning is critical for young and old alike to experience. The students who leave the structure of high school have iceberg size crevasses to leap over before they are ready to tackle the world and hold it to submission. And of course I believe that the people putting aside their own lives to educate others deserve great compensation – and for a year of college, with small classes and the attention of professors who invest in their students – that may well equal $5000 per professor X 4-8 a year, which returns us to the $20,000+ bill.
So again, when faced with the question “IS IT WORTH IT?”, what do we have to offer our young thinkers?