Saturday afternoons have never been my favorite for covering the news, or being subjected to news coverage on cable news television, unless there is some sort of “breaking news” event taking place. It’s not treated with the same respect that news coverage is given during the week, and at the end of the day – news channels that otherwise maintain a good line of credibility, run re-runs of documentaries, televisions shows, and specials about prisons. Its mind numbing, and I loathe it.
This weekend was no different. Saturday afternoon I struggled to find something worthy of serving as “noise” while I worked, occasionally muting the TV set in order to spur focus when I felt myself drifting. A segment was on CNN that caught my attention. This week “Ivory Tower Asks – Is College Worth the Cost?” will run on the network, and they had a round table discussion happening regarding the cost of college, and the specific remarks made by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
His sentiments were essentially that parents and students should think long and hard before they make any decision about college. While CNN portrayed the remarks significantly different, and made a decisive effort to ensure that Bloomberg was made out to be a villain, the picture of entitlement, and just about everything bad about the modern world. The panel of four had a fairly wide range of views, and they covered the spectrum well. One individual who served as the moderator, basically had no opinion on this particular issue – which I think was intentional – one individual had a very moderate opinion about where the issue stood, and then the other two individuals took extreme positions. One argued that his sentiments were valid, and the other person argued that his sentiments were ridiculous.
It was the position of the individual who thought the notion that parents and children should consider all the options before opting for a college education was crazy, and that the only answer – very plainly – was a college degree. Sunny Hostin was that individual. A legal analyst for CNN, who I have probably seen on the network a total of a half-dozen times. Every time I see her on the network, it’s during over-the-top coverage of a legal case. In recent months CNN has gotten away from that and focused on breaking news, which is great – because it gives lawyers like Sunny, less time to be on the air, saying things like she did on Saturday.
Her entire argument hinged on two things:
-The notion that college is not for everyone is the epitome of white privilege, and male entitlement.
-Arrogantly shaking her head at the notion of someone choosing to be a plumber, or anything along those lines – pretty much making her the poster-woman for entitled-wealthy-media-lawyer.
See, I am not Michael Bloomberg, and I can definitely understand why people find him so frustrating, and find his remarks to be more than a bit biased. I mean, he did graduate from John Hopkins University, and is worth $33 billion. I disagreed with nearly every policy he employed as a mayor, and found some of his tactics to be shady at best – but these remarks are surprisingly accurate. Bloomberg pointed out the obvious reality, as student debt soars, and tuition costs rise at an astronomical rate. College is not for everyone. No matter how badly we want it to be for everyone.
He pointed out something that should be celebrated, truthfully. We should be celebrating the notion that if you do not go to college, you can still be a successful person, and do very well for yourself. Yes, those who graduate from a four-year college earn more over a lifetime, but they also spend a greater portion of their lifetime digging themselves out from under a massive mountain of debt. Yes, college is an incredible social experience that is once in a lifetime, and the networking opportunities an individual experiences at college are second-to-none. But, that is an astronomical amount of money to spend, over the course of four-years, to meet people and network – when you could do that just as well outside the expensive walls of a university – if we just educated our kids a little more.
Speaking of higher education, many students are pushed into community college – as prep schools for them to eventually make it into the four-year campus – because high school doesn’t prepare them for life at college. Even worse, the numbers are heavily in favor of skipping or declining community college all together – when you look at completion rates amongst two-year students. Instead of making kids feel like they’re pieces of garbage, and destined for a life of failure if they do not graduate, or go to college – we should do something to actually educate our kids along the way about life.
There are plenty of experiences, plenty of things to learn, plenty of trades and systems to be learned at technical schools, in the workforce, and in apprenticeships throughout the United States – that can give a person just as much opportunity for a career that be supremely beneficial in the long run. Sure, they’re not as glamorous, but at the end of the day – what is more important? Having a glamorous job, or doing something that actually can sustain yourself and a family?
Oh, and the individuals like Sunny, who suggest that this mindset is the “epitome” of entitlement and privilege, should take a look in the mirror and at least be willing to acknowledge that their positions are about as arrogant, and privileged as they could be for not even being willing to acknowledge the decision and crisis facing the modern student heading into college, or who is currently attending. Not everyone has parents who are able or willing to pay tens-of-thousands of dollars a year to attend college, and eventually, as I learned first-hand, banks will not give students endless amounts of money in form of loans to continue their education – no matter how worthy their cause.
And if we’re counting, there is a serious discrepancy in this country regarding who gets the financial aid, and who gets the assistance, because like so many other political and economic issues in this country the students, parents, and families that fall in the middle and aren’t atop the income bracket, or at the absolute bottom – are often forgotten, and paying for college is no exception to that rule.
There are a lot more reasons why college really is not for everyone, but these were the first things that came to mind as I listened to someone who was clearly disconnected from what recent-grads, students, eventual students, and their families feel when one student, or multiple students go off to college. I didn’t graduate from a four-year university, and I was unfortunately not able to because of my financial situation when I was a student. But, that doesn’t mean that a solid living can’t be made in the process, and an individual can’t be just as successful as a person who did graduate with that fancy piece of paper – that guarantees nothing after you walk off stage.