The more I talk to students and families, the more they bring up money. Not financial aid, but future earnings. The more they talk, the more I think of Wu-Tang Clan and their song ‘C.R.E.A.M.’ You know…
Cash Rules Everything Around Me
Get the money
Dollar, dollar bill y’all!
Okay, enough with the 90s rap. But honestly, when I reflect and ask myself, was I right in deciding to major in History and minor in Anthropology and Chicano Studies as an undergrad? As a first generation student, I never thought about the money I would make or potential future earnings my degree would give me. That’s probably why I still work in education; and love it! When I decided to go to school it was for the love of learning, the opportunity to grow, and empower myself, my family, and community through higher education. I never looked at rankings, the strength of a department, or the projected earnings upon degree completion. Those aspects of choosing and attending a college never crossed my mind.
Transitioning into working at a private university, I began to learn about the importance of selectivity, rankings, and ROI. You may ask yourself, ROI, what the heck is ROI? I asked myself the same thing. I remember a parent asking me, ‘so if my son comes here what’s the ROI for the college, specifically as a business major?’ And quickly in my head I asked myself, ‘Wait, what?’ Then the parent went on to say…’you know Return on Investment’ and BOOM it hit me. College isn’t just about the love for learning or individual growth, for some it’s that bottom line.
Working with students and families throughout the college-choice process this spring, I realized all the “methodologies” in place to select the “right” university. Parents started off with a cost-benefit analysis of an institution, sprinkled in some rankings, and topped it off with a life time earnings percentage. And that’s how you choose a college. Previously working in college outreach, students were excited just for the Opportunity to attend a college. Our discussions were about the transformative power of higher education. They wanted to hear about the ability to pursue their dreams, learning about topics they were truly interested in, and grow from an adolescent to a self-aware adult. Things changed moving from outreach to admissions.
So is it time for me to adapt? Working in outreach, I discouraged our reps from leading our high school college presentations with future earnings of college graduates and which degrees made the most money. Essential, I believe it discourages students from studying subjects or fields they are passionate about because it wont make you money. Money was never the bottom line, learning was the main objective Now, I have an internal battle between trying to counsel students and families about attend a university that fits the student’s personality, passion, and goals; not just the institution’s name and rankings which most want to hear.
At times, I am discouraged by the state of admissions and college access. But I accept the challenge of being at a selective institution and making it more accessible for students. My new experiences require me to rethink my paradigm on college-choice and the purpose of higher education. I’m learning that it’s a balance between intrinsic and extrinsic values being met.
Regardless of the motives behind a student going to college I am reminded of Roger Williams quote: “The greatest crime in the world is not developing your potential. When you do what you do best, you are helping not only yourself, but the world.” Higher education does provide to opportunity(ies) to discover, develop, and enhance your potential in life. It allows for personal enrichment and yes, monetary enrichment.
This post is shorter than usually, less thought out than most. But it is one that I wanted to actually publish. This easily could have been add to the collection of near posts; you know, those ones completed, but you were unwilling to hit the publish button. I’ll do my best to stay on the blogging grind and remember to just keep it simple.
If you are interested in the topics mentioned in the post, check out these articles on worth of a college degree:
What’s your College’s Return on Investment?
Value of your Degree
Busting the Myth of College