By Danae Reid
As a college graduate still in pursuit of settling into my career a year post-grad, I’ve been exasperatingly questioning two things: Does this country value education and is college “worth” it?
Over the past weekend, we learned that billionaire Robert F. Smith, the founder of Vista Equity partners, surprised the Morehouse College Spring 2019 class with the announcement that he and his family would “make a grant to eliminate student loans” while delivering his commencement address.
The unstinting gift is estimated at a whopping $20 to $40 million for the class of 396 students, which means that the average Morehouse student has accrued approximately $50,505 to $101,010 in debt. Luckily Smith, the wealthiest African American in this country, was able to free those students from the significant financial burden that is student loans, but the idea that one student could owe so much for doing what society has hoodwinked us into believing is the “best/only way to be successful” [going to college], is deplorable at best. This statistic is multiplied exponentially when I think of those who continue on the path to obtaining post-graduate degrees. According to Forbes, Americans owe approximately 1.5 trillion dollars in student loan debt, which leads me back to my first point; does a country who continues to inflate the prices of higher ed, while also shoving the idea of college down our throats, really value education? I say no.
Regardless of financial standing, if the United States valued education and knowledge the way it claims to, higher ed would be more accessible (Note that I did not say free), and teachers would be better compensated. There is an ulterior motive however, and that is… money! As many of us know, no one will ever willingly give you the tools to overrun their “functioning” system, yet knowledge is the most powerful apparatus in the shed. The price of college is increasing almost eight times faster than wages according to Forbes, and I don’t believe it’s by accident. America is a capitalistic democracy, and money and wealth among the few seems to be the goal, while the rest of us are saddled with debt trying to get to that next position in life. And by us, I mean African Americans who hold the lion’s share of that 1.5 trillion dollars in educational debt. So the question becomes how can we as a collective change that trajectory and gain access to education without accumulating enormous amounts of debt.
I propose the following be done:
1 – Advocate for students of color to take AP classes. Advanced Placement courses provide college credit upon successful completion of a course and test while the student is still in high school. We are bright and brilliant but often don’t have the same opportunities as our counterparts. On average, AP classes are reserved for folks that don’t share our hues and in a lot of cases, they may not be offered in certain schools. We must change that.
2 – Take your Gen Eds at the local community college. They are totally transferable and half the cost.
3 – Apply, apply, apply for any and all scholarships. Most students are looking for full ride scholarships or only apply for funding during their high school senior year. There are many scholarships available for undergraduate and post-graduate students that go unclaimed each year. Sites like scholarship.com and Scholly are filled with scholarship information. It is also helpful to search university websites for scholarships that are specifically awarded to students at your school.
I’m sure there are other ideas that I haven’t thought of but, it’s a start. The truth is that I am still navigating my way and trying to embark on my career as well, so depending on the day, my answer to whether college is worth it varies.
What I will say is that aside from the financial burden a college degree can bring, CNBC states that “more than 40% of college students take a job out of school that did not require a degree”, which is definitely something to think about. So now I must ask you… Do you think that this country values education, and do you think college is “worth” it? Your answer may differ from others and that’s ok.
As for me, I am currently working several jobs within the media field as I work toward my goal of becoming a syndicated talk show host. In addition to writing for the Philadelphia SUN, I am also a street team member and assistant board operator for a major radio conglomerate, professional model, and creator and host of a web talk show — The Weekly Reid — all of which do not require a college degree. However, beyond the education that I received, perhaps what is equally important to measure college worth by are the opportunities that I received outside of the classroom. It was there that I honed my leadership skills, gained valuable radio, television, and writing experience through the campus run multimedia company, and learned how to network and find my space at the proverbial table.
But I often wonder if I would have had those opportunities without going the college route. Maybe I would, who knows. The decision for me to attend college was made before I was even born. My parents are both first generation college students, so it was just a given that my brother and I would go to college because of the value that they placed on it. Thankfully, I was awarded a scholarship that covered my tuition, so while it’s true that I am struggling to gain footing in my field, I never lose sight of the fact that I am not struggling to pay back loans at this point in my life. This is not the case for many students and the debt that they incur drives many to settle for jobs outside of their fields. It’s a vicious cycle that we millennials find ourselves in but what’s the alternative? The story of worth will continue to unfold over time and hopefully at some point the country will put action behind its words and take steps to make college affordable. Until then, I encourage you to do your homework and decide what is best for you.
“Student Loan Debt Statistics In 2018: A $1.5 Trillion Crisis” Forbes. June 13, 2018. Retrieved May 21, 2019
“Price Of College Increasing Almost 8 Times Faster Than Wages” Forbes. July 24, 2018. Retrieved May 20 2019
“Why your first job out of college really, really matters” CNBC. June 26, 2018. Retrieved May 20 2019
Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, The Philadelphia Sunday SUN, the author’s organization, committee or other group or individual.