Free college education. Sounds pretty great, and should Senator Bernie Sanders win the nomination he has promised to ensure this dream is a reality for college kids.
The burden of debt placed on young adults is colossal. $100,000 or more before you’re 25? That’s hardly democratic, or a good social structure. What it is, as well as extortion, is just how the education system has twisted itself over the years to become its own corporate industry.
Cost vs. Value
Higher education was always structured as an elitist system. Focused unfortunately on the rich, upper classes of old, it was never intended to be for everyone. And why should it?
The western education systems invites everyone to the party. Or rather they’re pushed through the door, and this is a problem. We are told you can’t get anywhere without a degree, many often left feeing like failures without one. And while the intentions of getting all young people a full education is commendable, the system is watered down to accommodate the huge numbers. The result: oversized classrooms needing more professors who often aren’t adequately qualified. Sounds a bit like high school.
While the monetary worth is astronomical, the value of a bachelor’s degree is low. Every other candidate now has one and too many can only be labeled as useless. Today you can earn a degree in Creative Writing, something which should be organized locally in social groups or evening classes. Neither Dickens, Tolkien, Lee nor Salinger needed formal certification to write their works.
Universities have broadened their course prospectuses. Where culinary arts, performing arts or engineering fields once took place at specialist schools or on-the-job training schemes, students now pay fortunes for a piece of paper and then question the debt. Education is a well established business with tens of millions of new consumers every year.
In the UK, where higher education is publicly sponsored, fees were increased by up to 200% (although still a long way off those in the US) leading to protests by students across the country. They amounted to nothing; the fees were fixed and teenagers continued to apply. However, there was a renewed interest in vocational apprenticeships with businesses and more young people did look into other means to get into the business world. Professional diplomas have become more widely recognized, where young workers gain equivalent accreditation through learning their trade.
Universities and colleges should focus on degrees relevant to the world today. The jokes on BAs in English have been recounted for years, yet kids are still striving for them. Cuts need to be made to courses that are unnecessary which should reduce the number of applications. With fewer students, these qualifications would have significant value, and not just the high school extension. In the current structure, Masters and Doctoral graduates will follow the same problems, with applications increasing each year in an effort to stand out from the crowd.
Reassessing the piece of paper
Universities should return to the “elite”, we just need to redefine the term. Reserving it for those who need further, structured teaching for their chosen pathways is the logical use for advanced studies. In return there should be a myriad of alternatives for other professional or vocational focuses where three or four years of displaced, theory-focused learning isn’t necessary.
Senator Sanders wants college to be free for everyone, and he’s right. Education should be a right, as should the ability to get a good career. However, the cost should be secondary, and instead he should discuss how he will reassess the current. System. By allowing everyone free education, college students will only be hurt in the long run. A dedication for genuine, applicable alternatives will give young people real options without believing they need four more years of studying. Right now we’re just herding sheep.
Only through implementing real change and not focusing on the monetary aspects, Bernie can one day bring forward his dream of free college education for all who attend, whether private or public schools. And they can leave with real prospects and not just a piece of paper and debt.