To Be or Not to Be… A College STudent

Since I attend college, I suppose most people would assume that I support higher education.  As a matter of fact, I, too, ponder the age-old question that stumps parent and student alike: Is a college education worth the cost and time?  Am I simply wasting thousands upon thousands of dollars for a degree that won’t even make a difference in my future career?  Two essays with two completely different points of view discuss this subject at length and can assist anyone to make a decision.

Katherine Porter advocates for a college education in her essay “The Value of a College Degree”, published in 2002 by the ERIC Clearinghouse for Higher Education.  She suggests that, before making a decision for or against college, people should know whether or not a higher education will benefit them in the long run or whether it will put them in eternal debt.  She goes on to quote statistics which prove that simply earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree by at least 133 percent (par. 3).  Porter proves her pro-college argument by discussing other social, familial, mental, and economic benefits.  According to her research, a college degree increases a person’s chances of career advancement and economic stability.  A college graduate will enjoy better mental health and will have the ability to make wiser decisions when it comes to parenting and lifestyle choices.  She emphasizes the fact that, in order to enjoy these benefits, students must complete college; therefore, those with low motivation and commitment should consider a 2-year college instead of a 4-year university (par.10).  Although the cost of a college degree is high — almost equivalent to the cost of a brand-new car — Porter asserts that, “the individual rate of return on investment in higher education is sufficiently high to warrant the cost” (par. 5).

A different, yet humorous, side of the debate comes from Linda Lee, who wrote an essay entitled “The Case Against College” for Family Circle magazine in 2001.  Lee argued against college based on her experience with her son and his college education — or lack thereof.  In her essay, Lee explains why a college education is unnecessary in terms of a good career and financial stability.  She uses the word “obsessed” to describe how many Americans feel about receiving a higher education (par. 3).  She states that many people succeed without ever having a degree, especially in careers requiring physical labor.  She continues by saying, “On average, the brightest and hardest-working kids in school go to college….studies almost always pit kids with degrees against those with just high school” (par. 4).  Lee then tells the story of how her son attended college after high school, only to drop out because all he wanted to do was drink and party with his friends.  Instead of paying $1000 a week for her son to live a continual teen movie, she told him to drop out and get a job.  Two years later, he had a high-paying job that paid more than half the jobs his peers who continued college had.  She ends her essay with the insistence, “He grew up, as most kids do.  And he did it, for the most part, in spite of college” (par. 14).

Porter and Lee agree on one thing: If a student does not have the dedication to keep going in school even when he or she no longer wants to attend, then that student does not belong at a college.  To be in school, you have to want to be in school.  For those who cannot afford to attend college, the better choice for them would be to work themselves up the career ladder, instead of shelling out thousands of dollars that they don’t have lying around.  Porter and Lee’s arguments differ on many points.  Although Lee originally believed in a higher education, she now firmly emphasizes the fact that you don’t need a degree to be successful.  Porter constantly reiterates her belief that you must have a degree in order to land a decent career.  Porter also makes it sound like low-income families can’t send their kids to college, whereas Lee mentions that hard work will get anyone anywhere they want in life.

I agree with Porter when she says that collegiate parents are more involved in their children’s lives.  I spend a lot of time with my daughter because I want to help her development and I know she has the potential to be really smart.  Lee makes a great point when she says that her son could have gotten the college party experience in the Marine Corps, and been paid for it instead of having to pay.  Honestly, neither author wrote anything that I disagree with.  They both made valid points, although I wish Lee had used cited sources to back up her information.  Personally, I agree with Porter more, because I myself am in college.  I don’t want to start out at the bottom and work myself up.  I would much rather spend four years reading books and learning and then receive a degree that allows me to work where I want, in the position I want.

In my opinion, students needs to make the decision for themselves, instead of letting other people pressure them into going or not.  College isn’t right for everybody.  My husband never completed high school and never went to college, and he is able to get a better-paying job than I can — simply because the labor field pays more than any job I apply for.  Until I earn my degree, I won’t be able to get a high-paying job.  By the time I do receive my degree and go to work in my field, my husband will have a job that pays just as much as my “college degree” job.  Whether or not you go to college depends on where you want to work and how you want to do it.  My husband is a master mason, without going to college.  He learned under an apprenticeship for several years from a man who taught himself, and became one of the best-known stonemasons in Reno, Nevada.

In conclusion, there are many different views on college education.  No one can say whether college is good or bad for people, whether it makes a significant difference in their lives.  If someone wants something bad enough, he or she will make it happen.  


Works Cited

1. Lee, Linda. “The Case Against College.” Family Circle June 2001: 172. Print.

2. Porter, Katherine. “The Value of a College Degree.”  ERIC Clearinghouse for Higher Education

Eric’s Digest Online, 2002. Web. 19 Nov. 2013

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