opinion

COLUMN: Fixing the cost of college



College students are a diverse group of people from an assortment of backgrounds. However, there are a few topics that can easily unite us. From the simplicity of alcohol or free pizza, to the sweeping relief of class being canceled, certain concepts can bring us together. One striking example of this is tuition.

Take a group of students, complain to them about the rising costs of college and you suddenly have a room full of friends. College costs are a problem that everyone acknowledges, but very few people work to solve, and oftentimes when we do broach the issue, we address the symptoms, not the roots.

This was evident in last year’s election. College students were some of the most ardent supports of Bernie Sanders because he wanted to provide free college to students and completely mitigate their debt burden.

Though on paper this sounds good, in practice this only exacerbates the problem. College costs are rising because we’ve shifted our perspective to view a bachelor of science or bachelor of arts as a necessity. As the adage goes, “A college degree is the new high school diploma.” This has resulted in pressure on our high school graduates to go to college as a necessary step to attain success.

While it might seem strange to think of more educated citizens as a problem, this college-focused system has significant drawbacks. Because the market is saturated with college degrees, they become a requirement for jobs, and more students take out loans. But simply making this free would mean that more students would go to college, further saturating the market.

This also means that students who don’t feel like they belong in college enroll simply out of social expectation, resulting in rising rates of dropouts. Plus, students end up going to graduate school to stand out, resulting in loans despite this policy. This process in which degrees become worth less and less is called “degree inflation,” and this is the root problem that forces this debt burden upon students.

But tuition costs aren’t the only problem derivative of degree inflation. In recent years internships have become a must in the working world. This is because the degrees themselves aren’t worth what they used to be, and because for all the 
benefits of college, it oftentimes doesn’t give you actual experience in a workplace.

In reality, that’s what’s important. That’s why I advocate more internship opportunities out of high school, and not just for technical careers. I’m an advertising and marketing major, and it seems as though spending four years working in an advertising firm would be more useful for my career than four years listening to lectures.

Rather than spending millions to pay public universities to give out increasingly worthless degrees, the United States should have programs incentivizing businesses to hire interns out of high school. This would give high school graduates job experience and a feel for what it’s like to be an adult, while allowing those students who really want to go to college to do so. I love college, and I know a lot of people who do, but we need to stop acting like post-secondary education is a one-size-fits-all mold for society.

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