Growing up, college was always somewhat of an expectation rather than a choice for me. Saying that makes it sound like I am being forced and was never allowed to explore any alternative options, so I should preface this article by saying that I totally was, I just never went out of my way to pursue anything else.
I did not even think about my higher education until junior year rolled around; suddenly every family visit turned into an interrogation as everyone asked me where I wanted to go to college and what my major would be.
However, while it was expected that I would go to college, it was also something I knew I wanted to do. Of course, that is not the case for everyone, but I feel that college is becoming just that for most people – something you are expected to do once you graduate high school. Maybe you take a year off, maybe you go to a community college and transfer, but the end result is still a college diploma.
Obviously, there are enough pros to justify going to college, or else I would not be here writing this article right now – according to ProCon, college graduates make more money and have more employment opportunities.
The most glaringly obvious problem is that getting a good, old-fashioned college degree comes hand-in-hand with everyone’s favorite pal: crippling student debt. Business Insider reported that U.S. college students have racked up 1.2 billion dollars worth of debt, and that goes without saying that we are expected to somehow pay all that money back. Undergraduate students in June 2016 had an average debt of $37,173 according to ProCon. Also, missing loan payments often results in added fees, which you might recognize as the farthest possible thing from a solution, but I digress.
There is obviously a lot of pressure to get some form of higher education, and with good reason, but people often make seem like college is the only option. There are plenty of careers out there that do not require a college degree, and it is highly unlikely that we will ever come to a point in society where farmers, airline pilots, criminal investigators and police supervisors are not needed.
America has actually reached a point where, if anything, we need more tradespeople – so much effort has been put into encouraging high school students to attend college rather than pursuing a trade in industrial fields that are facing a shortage of workers.
According to Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), only eight percent of undergraduates are enrolled in vocational courses, but there are about 30 million jobs out there that pay at least $55,000 a year and do not require a bachelor’s degree.
If either college or vocational school was the easier option, everyone would be doing it. There are good things and bad things that come with both decisions, so where to go after high school ultimately comes down to personal choice. That being said, America’s emphasis on choosing college over vocational schools may end up having huge consequences in the future.
Izzy Manzo can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org