If there’s anything that media writers know how to do, its how to create disproportionate drama and turn it into a headline you can’t ignore. Take this recent article for consideration: “College grad: ‘I wish I’d gone to prison instead’,” a perfect example of completely missing the point, blowing problems out of proportion, and turning credible complaints into absurd hyperbole. I almost can’t believe that an article so ridiculous exists on a “mainstream” news outlet and its up to bloggers like me to put some reason & sanity back into the discussion of higher education reform.
Oh sure, there are problems with the way we pay for college. There are huge problems of corruption and crony-capitalism throughout our student loan industry. Students are paying unprecedented fees to attend colleges who seem to be more concerned with professors who publish than classroom instruction, but these problems aren’t even in the same ballpark as those faced by someone who goes down a criminal road and ends up prison.
Incarceration is a whole other set of social problems in America, and I can guarantee you that every single inmate in the country would trade places with a college student (or even a free graduate working to pay back debt). In the world of prison, human beings are subject to constant psychological harassment, violence, sexual assault, and a dozen potential sources of sickness & disease. If they ever see the outside again, they’re unlikely to get any job – even one at a warehouse doing manual labor. If that’s the best a college graduate can get in this economy, who do you think is hiring ex-convicts? Chances are they’ll end up going back to jail after a short while outside brings the realization that they’ll never adjust back to a non-violent world of individual choices rather than someone with physical dominance telling you exactly what to do.
In college, you get to sit around listening to some of the smartest and most educated people in their field. You get to sit next to peers who are motivated and excited about the same subjects as you. Social and cultural groups organize around the campus community, and there’s always a party or a concert or a show of some type to go see. There’s not even a three hundred pound guy looking over your shoulder telling you which class to sign up for or forcing your hand to sign a long-term debt agreement.
Obviously, going to college doesn’t guarantee you get the exact job you want – not even if you pick something you think is “safe” and mundane enough to be reasonable. The job market is a bit more complicated than picking out an ideal job, going to college, and settling down for the next 30 years doing exactly what you dreamed of. These days, workers are likely to switch career paths many times and chances are new graduates will end up employed in a position unrelated to their major – even job positions they didn’t know existed back when they were picking a major and filling out a course schedule.
The cost of college sucks, the debt sucks, the job market sucks, but that doesn’t make the alternatives to higher education any better – it makes them even worse! There are things you can do to reduce the costs of a degree and there are ways to make money or start a business even in a down economy. The job you woke up early for today probably won’t define the rest of your life, so don’t let it drag you down and don’t let fear & horror stories lead you to an even worse place!