Over the past forty years, society has placed a greater emphasis on having a college degree. We are told this narrative that a college degree will get you a better job that will lead to a bigger salary, so we believe it. We’ve had this ingrained in our minds since we were first introduced to the concept of college. We enter college with an end goal—to get a good job. We choose our major, pick our classes, and go through the motions of college. Finally, it’s time to graduate! Wait, now what? We often forget that even with a college degree, a job is not waiting for us in a shiny package at the end of graduation. The following picture is from an article titled “Earning Gap Narrows, but College Education still Pays” from The Chronicle of Higher Education (http://chronicle.com/article/Earnings-Gap-Narrows-but/142175/).
Schools rely on pictures and statistics like these to encourage students to attend college, and the only thing it takes into account is the amount of money each person makes.
There is so much pressure to choose the right major because this will determine our job. The most common question I receive as a college student is “What’s your major?” and “What do you plan to do with that?” Along with societal pressure, the monetary cost of attending college weighs heavily on our shoulders and adds to the pressure of choosing the right major. As the article by Berett titled “The Day the Purpose of College Changed,” says, “A farmer reading the classics or an industrial worker quoting Shakespeare was at one time an honorable character. Today’s news stories lament bartenders with chemistry degrees. ‘Where once these ‘incongruities’ might have been hailed as signs of a healthy republic . . . today they are more likely to be cited as examples of a ‘wasted’—nonmonetized—education’.”
It is interesting to see the shift in motivations throughout the years. This article mentions a survey that took place in the 19070s where ¾ of college freshman say they went to college to develop a “meaningful philosophy of life,” and only 1/3 of freshman said it was essential to be well off financially. Now in 2015, these statistics have swapped places. College has turned into a way to get a job, not improve life. As a result, a liberal education that was once encouraged is now shied away from and forgone. In “The Day the Purpose of College Changed,” Ronald Reagan said that taxpayers should not be “subsidizing intellectual curiosity.” Having attended a liberal arts school for my first two years of college, I can attest to the worry and doubt that plagues the minds of students who choose to study music, philosophy, French, songwriting, and any other humanities. Many fold under the pressure and choose a major that is more “practical” in society’s mind. The dreaded but inevitable question is, “What do you plan to do with that in the future?”
Since ideas about college have obviously shifted over the years, I wonder how these ideas will continue to shift in the future. Will a college education become more essential or will it lose its value over time?