The Ugly Truths About College and Finances In America

A Rant – 30 Ugly Truths

Sometimes you just have to tell the truth. With this in mind, and as a college student paying his way through to get a degree, I’ve come up with several college “truths.” My assertion is that college has become necessary for success in almost all of the work force when it should only be needed for some professions. With the lack of economic prosperity, requiring students to pay mind-boggling amounts of money, to do jobs they already have the knowledge and skills to complete out of high school, does nothing but hurt this country’s economy. So without further adieu, here are 30 truths about college in America.

College is not necessary to be sufficient in a majority of professions (1). People should not have to go to college in order to earn a fair (truly middle-class) wage in this country. If you think about the professions that exist today, so many could be done even if the employee didn’t have a college degree. Did Steve Jobs or Bill Gates need degrees? My own father trains people how to use equipment in a factory, makes a pretty decent wage too, yet never received a college education.

I had a wonderful internship this summer doing something that I taught myself how to do (with fancy computers), and I can’t honestly think of much I actually used in the real-world, outside of a few business classes I’d taken. Most my learning this summer took place in the practice, not in a classroom (2). Years ago, college was for doctor’s and lawyers (3), not any person that wanted to get a decent paying job (yes we’ve become a service-based instead of an industrial society, but bear with me here).

Many college classes are just plain boring (4). When I’m scheduling, there’s always bound to be one awful general education class that I have to take. My performance in these types of classes will have no affect on any learning, and will only server to further my progression towards a degree. If I’m working for a corporation, when will I ever have to tell them about how to find f(x)? Yet, I’m forced to take classes I have no interest in, and will not help me at all with my profession, and pay hard earned cash for them. It just doesn’t seem fair when you think of all the financial issues college students must contend with.

Most college students are poor (5). In terms of socio-economic brackets, all college students are probably poor, but even those who have parents with the income to be able to supply their students with money to buy beer still have issues when it comes to money. College can really be a ripoff at times (6). The entire textbook system in college is like a pyramid scheme that has been allowed to flourish (7). If I buy a textbook for $150, I get to use it for a quarter (or semester), and then sell it back for about $15. Hey, that’s 10%, what an awesome deal! Good thing the inflation rate is only around 3%, right?

With those outrageous prices, students can also get hit with a class where the professor wrote the book and makes them buy it, but it’s never used in class. This happened to me once, except that the bookstore wouldn’t even buy it back because it was simply a packet with 180 hole-punched pages. A nice “F-U” from the bookstore in conjunction with the Economics department. Why do you think college students are forced to buy cardboard-tasting, bowel-destroying piss-water (8)? Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the money to buy Sam Adams Boston Lager, the best American beer (9). In any case, students get screwed royally even without factoring tuition in (10).

One viewing of college tuition costs proves that it is also too high. Does a college really need to charge more than $40,000 a year? Will a degree from a private university be that much better than mine or anyone else who doesn’t go to a private school to justify it’s worth quadruple the price? Even state-funded schools have been having issues with increasing tuition rates (11). Maybe it’s because the economy is partying like it’s 1929 (12). It’s quite sad how much money some people pay just to go to one specific private school, when they, in all likelihood, will end up getting a job making just as much as the next poor state-school dolt once they graduate.

The only difference between most colleges and some of the more “prestigious” universities is how US World and News Report ranks them (13). Which, by the way, is about as flawed as the BCS (14), which is quite fitting, except that Ivy Leagues would win national championships. At least colleges are starting to realize that rankings are biased (15), although the tuition issue is still significant.

How can colleges justify having thousands of potentially brilliant students eliminated from any chance of attendance simply because of finances? There was a time I considered attending Kenyon College, and applying to Northwestern University. However, one look at those price tags made my decision for me. Students shouldn’t be limited by finances when it comes to choosing a college.

The fact remains, there are some people who are either too poor to go to college, or not poor enough (16). Affording college is a major pain in the behind for the middle class (not so much for John McCain’s middle class, but who’s counting), yet the government, and the universities themselves assume most families can afford to pay much more than would ever be feasible.

Case and point, on no planet would my parents ever be able to afford to give me $40,000 a year in tuition, but the government cites that as the “expected family contribution” for my yearly tuition. After taxes, paying for other sibling’s schools, mortgages, insurance, food, etc, $40,000 would cause my parents to be destitute. However, they make just enough that I’m not eligible for any financial aid scholarships, so I’m stuck thinking of every easy, unique scholarship idea I can.

So as it is, students are stuck being forced to borrow riddikulus amounts of money (17). Then students get credit card debt because of either the cost of textbooks, their own financial irresponsibility, or just for trying to pay for living expenses (18). However, the credit card companies love to get students in debt, because then aforementioned parents have to chip in (19).

After all this for four, five, or more years, students graduate and get to start paying off their loans almost immediately, with this lovely thing called interest (20). However, good luck being able to do that if you got an English degree. You’ll be worrying about how many pieces of flair you have on before work, and wondering what you spent $30K a year for when you’ve got to be at Ruby Tuesday’s in an hour. In that situation, you essentially have to go to grad school or risk being the most educated person in the unemployment line (or the sports bar) (21).

Yet, all is not doom and gloom when it comes to college (22). We have our system of educating people, and it’s clearly not going to change anytime soon. The solution is simply this: we should make college free for everyone (23). Take after countries like Belgium, that only require students to pay for their books. Yes, we’ll have higher taxes, but college won’t be something reserved for the wealthy elite, and those with enough gumption to borrow thousands and thousands of dollars on an education. If we want our society to be full of educated professionals (24), wouldn’t it be better to make sure they aren’t broke professionals (25)? In truth, while college isn’t necessary for entry into the professional world (aside from doctors, lawyers, etc), it is a great time to learn more and grow as a functioning member of society (26).

As it stands right now; banks, beer, video games, web sites that promote college hacks, MTVU, the BCS, tuition, STDs, and all the other crazy things one could associate with college will continue to exist. They are all wonderful in their own ways and make college interesting (27), and a real learning experience (28). However, we should take the time to rethink how we’re doing things, and what negative effects this could have on the future of the economy. Students today have a unique place in the world, it’s up to everyone to make sure we don’t mess it up.

Because if things remain the way they do, then students will continue to be caught with debt they cannot relieve, and they’ll keep borrowing and borrowing while trying to afford a college that is too expensive to begin with. Considering massive issues like a $700 billion bailout, the condition of Social Security, the housing market, and so many other financial markets, it seems like we’re just creating a bigger problem. We shouldn’t be sending the people who are supposed to be the future of this nation into the world already hampered by debt (29). Forgive the ranting, but I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore (30).

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