It’s absolutely a question worth asking
At National Review, James Piereson and Naomi Schaefer Riley ponder whether or not elite higher education—or any higher education at all—is truly necessary. Noting that, to many employers, a Bachelor’s degree merely signifies a set of basic skills such as “rudimentary math skills,” the authors point out that, under this rubric, attending a cheaper state school is probably just as good as attending a more selective one, and that “a one- or two-year apprenticeship in any number of fields after high school” might offer an equally beneficial (and far cheaper) alternative to the standard college route.
There is likely a great deal of truth to this. There are many fine reasons to go to college—if you wish to pursue a highly technical career, if you want to become a teacher, if you’re interested in doing academic research—but there are also many fine reasons to consider not going, as well. The old joke about useless majors (“What are you going to do with that basket-weaving / intersectional gender studies degree?”) actually applies fairly well to the more interesting and meaningful majors, as well: What are you going to do with a history degree, or an English one? Those are terrific areas of study, of course, full of meaning and import and consequence. You can learn these subjects very easily from the comfort of your own home, however. It doesn’t require four intensive years of your life and $50,000 of debt; it mostly just requires a lot of books and a willingness to read them.
Whether or not to attend higher education is a deeply personal decision, and one that each potential student has to consider carefully. Nobody should feel pressured about it one way or the other. But one way we can help the next generation of students make the right decision for them is to stop assuming that college is the standard and natural choice for high school graduates. There are numerous options available for young adults that can lead to happy, successful, flourishing careers. College is one of them; but it is not the only one.
MORE: The benefits of cheap college (or no college at all)
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