Four Year Corporations, but What to Do?

Yes, corporations these are. When all of the test prep material is under the monopoly of College Board, and my life is supposedly based off of a college degree, I start to wonder whether a university is really an institute to help me get ahead in life, or just a cleverly disguised ploy to put me in thousands of dollars in debt.

It’s funny how colleges I have no chance of getting into bombard me with ridiculous emails trying to get me to apply, and come with a price tag far beyond my financial capabilities. In this sense, going to a prestigious university is seen as somewhat of a joke when the tuition prices in this country (America) continue to climb, and our abilities to pay for them, or at this point, even get accepted continue to plummet.

I personally find it a bit strange that eventually one or two companies have somehow climbed so far up the corporate ladder, that almost every test prep or college preparation book is provided by either companies like Baron’s or the Princeton Review (maybe they’re secretly the same thing, you never know). This feeling is furthered by the introduction of common core standards as well. I see that unfortunately, our education system is being institutionalized and standardized by a set of requirements that leave teachers and students with little flexibility.

No longer is school about actual learning; it has been replaced with a constant tension to aim high and perform even higher. Students will be up late into the night just to ace that next test, and then begin the repeated cycle of advanced classes, a boat-load of extracurricular activities, all while aiming to set themselves apart from other kids. The unfortunate reality is, we just don’t know what colleges will want in their coming class, and it all becomes a game of chance…or whoever’s parents can pay the tuition in full, along with “donations.”

It has become even more difficult for some of us (like me) to pinpoint that perfect career choice, thus narrowing down the classes to take, and allowing for the money spent on university well worth it. The market is constantly changing, and the demand for certain careers even more so. It’s not that easy nor convenient to waste even a semester trying to figure out what we want to do. We have to decide now, in secondary school, or face the ugly financial consequences. Sometimes, the one thing we’re most interested or passionate about becomes something that we can’t support ourselves with, thus pushing us towards a more “stable” career choice that maybe we aren’t cut out for.

Furthermore, when looking at what kinds of environments that different kinds of schools offer, I find myself shying further and further away from Ivy leagues. What difference does it make when someone who went to a lower tier college gets a similar education to a student that goes to a place like Harvard or Yale? Is the extra anxiety and the debt worth it regardless of the name? Are the upper class socialites I may or may not interact with, be the kind of people I work with in real life? Probably not.

It is also unfortunate, that with the increased pressure to aim for higher degrees and more specialized jobs, our schools have lost sight of the students that do not wish to pursue the same ideals. What ever happened to wood shop or even electrical engineering? How about plumbing or even things like vehicular mechanics? The reality is, some kids don’t want to be doctors or engineers. There is kids that want to pursue a living in careers that simply do not require a college education, rather, hands on learning in a time when education is comfortably secured.

Despite these setbacks, I have heard in recent news that Obama is proposing a bill that would make the first two years of community college free for all American students that reach the minimum requirement. This gives me hope as the confusing process of applying for colleges inevitably nears. I find that perhaps it would be easier to transfer from a cc to a nicer college, and that I have more financial options to choose from. This also gives me hope that higher education is not being wasted and given off to corporation-like institutions, all at the expense of the middle class. What this also means, is that students who would have otherwise not gone to college, may at least complete a two-year degree without any serious out of pocket costs.

What we need as a nation in our higher education system is options, and the knowledge that more students can access them. It would make figuring out the next step in a student’s long life of learning a whole lot easier. What we need to change is the focus on trying to reach standards, and instead pay attention to the need for more educational opportunities, along with a greater focus on actual learning (ahem).

There’s quite a bit of change going on in the world, and with the lack of educational and financial security, how can we prepare the next generation?


Note: My experience does not dictate every American students, however, I’m just one example of a middle-class American who wishes to pursue higher education. The opinions I hold do not mean that a classmate of mine holds the same view. Maybe they want to go to Harvard even when I don’t.

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