Reflections on the Worth of College and Student Debt

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Updated: Nov 22, 2022
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The unemployment levels for high school and college graduates alike have reached record heights. This surfaces the hugely controversial argument: is college worth it? With student debt crossing detrimental lines and acceptance rates at all time lows, many people are starting to lean towards the negative side of this ongoing argument. Although college does teach more than just the basics for scholastic intelligence, my beliefs have started to stray towards the negative side as well. Unless you need a college education for the development of specific skills that cannot be taught in other ways, college is helpful, but not necessary. This is based on student loan debts, specialized career paths, and up-front cost.

Facing the facts; unless you are the child of Will Smith or Bill Gates, you are going to graduate college with monumental amounts of student debt. Tuition costs have reached laughable heights in the past ten to twenty years. These costs will not only cause momentary standstills in students’ early adult life, but will instead lay enormous pressures on life well through adult years. “A record share of students are leaving college with a substantial debt burden, and among those who do, 48% say that paying off that debt made it harder to pay other bills, 25% say it has made it harder to buy a home, and 24% say it has made an impact on their career choices” (Pew, Source F). Do we not drill into students’ minds the idea that college will help them towards the careers and futures of their choice? And yet, a quarter of college graduates are having to take the night-shift at their local bars to help them pay off debts they owe for learning how to be a nanoscientist. And while an education is completely needed to develop skills in a field such as this, was $69,000 a year at New York University really worth the pain? Of course, this does not go for every student, and a great number will snatch jobs right out of college in the field of their choice, but they will still be living under the weight of gigantic debt and must sacrifice basic living expenses well into their adult lives to pay these debts back. If a student has dreams and aspirations to be a neurosurgeon, of course college is the necessary track.

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Fields that require training far beyond the abilities of unspecialized teachers to teach should be studied at colleges and universities. But, if a student wants to be an actor or a singer, going to Juilliard at $39,000 a year-while it will make them strong connections for the future- may not be worth the pain that follows graduation. If someone has a dream and a talent that cannot be produced and nurtured any better inside a classroom than out in the real world, they should be able to chose for themselves which path to take. But, college should never be the “only option.” “… the social pressure for students to pursue ‘lower-risk-trajectories’ in their career choices will lead to less innovation in the future” (Weider, Source E). Here, Ben Weider conveys the ideas of Peter Thiel, a co-founder of paypal. Theil plainly believes that if young adults are forced to go to college and shoot for “practical options,” they will lose their innovation and all aspirations. Forcing a child with a love of painting to be a nurse will stifle their creative ideas and make them think logically- not just in schooling, but in all aspects of life. And while logical thinking is a helpful skill, if logicality puts you $300,000 in debt, being a dreamer will help you live happily in every part of your life.

As if student loans weren’t scary enough, the upfront cost of college is enough to make even an upper-class family feel sick to their stomachs. While the name of a college does not mean much in the long run, the Ivy-Leagues are put on pedestals completely out of reach of ninety-percent of students. And these universities are not just out of reach from an intelligence standpoint, but also from the standpoint of money. From Yale at $47,000 a year to NYU at almost seventy, these schools are impractical and not as special as people make them out to be. Matthew Crawford of the New York Times says, “More fundamentally, now as ever, somebody actually has to do things” (Crawford, Source A). In modern times, people have developed skills beyond those that have ever existed before and with those skills have created wonderful opportunities for themselves. And while it would be a good learning experience to go to college and learn how to properly use those skills, getting out into the real world with fresh eyes, not corrupted by others’ teachings, is the most important thing.

Of course college is an important experience to develop a healthy, young, and mature adult. College gives opportunities to students to get jobs and teaches skills to help them in the real world. But, all these skills can be learned by going into the real world and learning them alone. Going to college should be reserved for people in need of the education for a specific trade and not just someone who needs to be practical. Practicality can be learned on the streets, for less than fifty grand a year. Those who take the practical route are not even guaranteed a job straight out of college. With unemployment rates for college graduates at the levels they are, life after college is a rollercoaster of student debts and unpaid fees. The stress of the world is enough without having to work a job you hate to pay off debts you received learning to be something you hated equally. If the world were full of more innovative dreamers who created opportunities for themselves, it would truly be a better place.

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Reflections on the Worth of College and Student Debt. (2022, Nov 22). Retrieved from