Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Too many people are going to college

Consider vocational schooling
(Collegian file photo)

People are graduating late, accumulating too much debt and earning less than their non-college educated counterparts.

When I was in elementary, middle and high school, the only path offered to me after I graduated was to go to college. As someone who is deeply interested in the world around me and always immersed in learning, I welcomed this social pressure and, as may be apparent, accepted the proposition, ending up at the University of Massachusetts. However, this is not the case for everyone.

It is hard to count how many times I have been in class and witnessed students who would clearly rather be anywhere but in that lecture hall or classroom, and yet they show up regardless. I can’t help but feel a pang of pity for them; these are people with whom I may have been friends in high school, and so presumably they heard all of the same encouragement that I did to live in a crowded space for four years and then tackle the world with the flimsy piece of paper they would receive at graduation. It seems they have been forced to live a lie: go to college to succeed in life.

The amount of people enrolled in college is certainly a problem that isn’t getting any smaller: there are already 19.9 million students in colleges across the United States this year, and increased encouragement from places like the New York Times will only complicate things further. Instead, people should only go to college if they truly want to, and pursue opportunities like vocational education in order to better prepare themselves for the real world.

One of the main drawbacks of getting a college degree is the astronomical price of completing the process. According to CNBC, “44 million Americans collectively hold more than $1.4 trillion in student loan debt,” an average of around $32,000 per person. This means that student loans account for the second-highest category of debt — behind mortgages, but ahead of credit card debt. This inflated debt is further amplified by the time spent in school, as only 54.8 percent of students actually graduate within six years.

It would be one thing if this debt paid for itself. However, many graduates have a difficult time trying to find employment after school to pay back their debts, and in 2017, “the delinquency rate — the percentage of loans that are 90 days or longer past due — hit nine percent,” which was the highest of any household debt that year. This is clearly a problem — if so many people are going to college and are then unable to pay back their loans, then what is a degree good for?

Conversely, there is a good case to be made that high school graduates should go to vocational school. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a higher percentage of students with an occupational degree became employed than those with an academic degree, as of 2009.  Additionally, since trade schools aren’t as academically rigorous as colleges, many people who dread the hours of reading and homework may find it much more suitable to their own interests to get vocational training. As if this wasn’t enough to convince you of the validity of trade schools, there are around 30 million jobs that pay an average of $55,000 a year — without requiring a bachelor’s degree.

Another telling bit of information about colleges is their perceived utility. A paltry 26 percent of college students believe that their school fully prepared them for the professional world. The main goal of a university should be to teach their students how the real world operates. Instead, it seems like schools spend their time spelunking in the caves of abstract ideas without any lifeline connected to the concrete of the outside world.

Don’t get me wrong; college is a fantastic opportunity for many people. I, for one, am enjoying my time here at UMass immensely. Along with the richness of academic pursuits, the social life at college is not to be looked over, along with the opportunities that college grants outside of the classroom.  I love college and will always value this time as an integral part of my life.  However, everyone is different. If you don’t feel like college is the right fit for you, do something more valuable with your time. Don’t waste four years and thousands of dollars in debt to fulfill a lackluster academic program that might not even be that useful.

Do what feels right; it doesn’t have to involve college.

Greg Fournier is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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  • T

    TedDec 18, 2021 at 12:40 pm

    I easily earned good grades and was the son of a professor. So a top tier College and Graduate School were once proud assumptions in my family. In retrospect, it led to a miserable corporate career where people were not treated very well. The thing is, no one was there in my life early on to talk about trades, what they pay, how to get into them. With the power of hindsight I suspect I would have been much happier as a contract electrician and lighting designer than as a retail data analyst staring down a potential layoff each annual budget exercise. I am not joking when I say getting an education is one of the dumbest things I ever did. A legacy dream from a prior generation that worked hard and wanted their kids to have it easier, as highly educated professionals. Learning by doing will always be more relevant and practical than the proxy that is any classroom experience.

  • I

    IskSep 5, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    To respond to Amy above , it is quite obvious that some people have a very negative and judgmental perception of college without looking at the benefits as well. Many students are in many different situations, and one persons apparent criticism of a system, with not enough data to back up their conclusions, shouldn’t reflect that the system is in complete apocalyptic disorder. As Amy is trying to bring in politics into the matter of education, and like the typical right winger, tries to make it all the “lefts” fault, I would point out the fact that due to republican control of the government, the funding for college education is increasingly low, leading to over inflation of tuition prices and not enough funding for the states to control the costs of college. Furthermore, she’s trying to mislead by stating that the norm is not to require SAT scores, when in fact there’s only been a documented case of a very small amount of colleges not requiring it, a large majority still do. Competition to get into college is actually a lot higher now. She also paints all professors as dealing only with emotion, not basing things on fact, and being awful in general including the students, showing a “lower intelligence” in her own words, because intelligent people wouldn’t dare generalize people like that, now would they? That kind of sense of superiority for other individuals shows a narcissistic and judgmental tendency, she obviously should not be at college by her logic.

    The point is, there truly is a problem with college education currently. In prior times it used to be well funded by the federal government, but over the years that has been cut drastically leading to the states having to deal with the issue, and as with many headlines we see nowadays, we see that they just don’t care, or don’t have the ability to. Furthermore highschools are not giving a better explanation of job prospects for when a person goes for one career or another, and there are not a lot of second options. It’s getting better, but it’s still pretty bad.
    But its okay to pursue ones passions, even be it liberal arts, or a low paying job, as long as you realize the current economical ramification. Many professions are really important, such as teachers, and yet they don’t have good economical prospects in the future, so our system is messed up to favor those of engineering or business backgrounds. Unlike Amy’s outlook, it is a good thing to have an educated populace, but only if it’s made up of people that truly want to go to college, and pursue their passions, however currently, pursuing ones passions may be too expensive and detrimental to their future.

  • A

    AmyOct 2, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    Too many people go to college because it has been deliberately encouraged by liberals, I think as a combination because they want to indoctrinate students with leftist thinking/social justice/diversity ideology and because they think education is something great.

    The reality is that only about 1/3 of population can benefit from a higher education degree; but now over 50 percent of population goes to college and most of those people don’t belong. You can tell by their lower intelligence; background; how they try to make college into some infantile social justice thing. If not above all, emotion is placed above reason. What is supposed to separate higher education is the use of the mind; yet both the students and professors and administration place emotion above reason. So much so they deliberately encourage you to base things no how you ‘feel’ and what you ‘perceive’ versus facts and reality.

    The reality is I think colleges are overpopulated and that college now is just sort of a joke. Umass is a key example of this, I go here for a technical reason to get a degree that will enable me ultimately(ironically once I get out of college) to use my mind and make a high salary , but I’ve learned nothing from professors, from courses; the campus is honestly a garbage pit; and the student population is sort of a freak-show.

    I think that colleges once had a much higher standard ; now it’s the norm to not even require sat scores; I think that Umass and colleges need to be reformed. Although the adminstartors and professors like to think they run the colleges; the reality is that umass and other colleges are pubilc institutions and aside from existing to serve students; should have a wider purpose for society which diversity/social justice/ sports/ silly degrees/lacking/low education standards/ massive debt(umass takes on billions in debt) is not productive.

    Umass needs to be reformed and also it needs to be brought under public control. Umass can serve as a nation-wide model for how to reform a college; particularly because it is among the most extreme and wacky colleges that has long strayed from it’s original purpose.