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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Too many people are going to college

College is a great institution for those looking to seriously challenge themselves and advance their understanding of self and environment. A collegiate environment also provides an excellent opportunity for students to form a working relationship with their professors in a way that helps them understand what they went to school to learn in the first place. Additionally, the dynamic environment of a campus, particularly here in Madison, allows for one to form his or her own connections in the vast social network—the real, living one, not that fake online knockoff. Unfortunately, the aspects that make college so great are being diluted by the overwhelming amount of people attending college.

On the surface, the idea of more people earning a degree is a very good thing. While earning a degree is a good thing, more people earning degrees does not mean these people are graduating and moving into comfortable careers. Additionally, there is a sizeable number of students who drop out or get kicked out, possibly due to lack of motivation, bad economic times or just plain choice. While there will always be people who do not “succeed,” a big part of this issue is due to the oversaturation of college degrees today.

This oversaturation of degrees, in turn, lowers the value of college degrees for all graduates as the inherent value, the scarcity of degrees, is obviously lost. This basic fact is what the supporters of 100 percent state-funded tuition do not understand. I must be very clear though; I am not disparaging people who hold this opinion as they’re well-intentioned. But doesn’t the simple law of supply and demand come into play when there is approximately 15 percent real unemployment and more graduates are still being churned out? Student loan debt has already surpassed that of total credit card debt; and yet, the credit card companies are the only ones that appear deceptive?

Consistently increasing government subsidies to college education is creating a massive college education bubble. Many reading this most likely receive federal assistance in the form of loans or Pell Grants. What these subsidies do to students though is blind them to the accumulating debt that will be hovering over them for many years to come. Over time, as government provides more loans and grants, it inadvertently removes the mechanism for efficiency, which is innovation, as colleges find they can just raise tuition and the government will increase subsidies to match.

Despite this, there is still the chance the economy could recover to the point that fresh graduates may have a chance in the job market. The last few job reports have looked promising and maybe there’s something real behind them, but only time will tell. In the meantime, technical schools and other smaller colleges are benefitting. These schools can get you the education you need to do specific skills-related work. Boosting these schools more is the fact that these degrees can be attained relatively quickly compared to the time it takes in traditional four-year universities.

Compounding the debt explosion, the traditional four-year model is now extended longer for a portion of students, some taking four and a half to five and a half years to graduate. For in-state students, that time can cost up to $10,000, not accounting for the likely tuition increases in the future. For those who wish to go out of state for school, the rise in cost for education has pretty much dashed their options to do so. Out-of-state tuition is not as much a target though, since they already pay far higher in tuition. It is the in-state students who universities are looking at. In the end, whether in-state or out-of-state, students are all paying the price for this Frankenstein system.

Unfortunately, when it comes to broken systems, there’s really not much that students can do right now. This is an issue that is beyond simply passing legislation or adding more bureaucracy. This is a deep, normative institution al flaw that incorporates many factors into its ultimate result. While talking about changing the higher education system may make for a good opinion article, there is still the reality that a degree is required to at least break into a decent middle income job. To tell other students to just drop school because I think the system is broken is self-absorbed. Instead, the heart of my piece is to simply prompt you to make your own judgments on whether college is worth it for you. College is not required to learn or succeed—books exist—but it provides a great opportunity to take that knowledge further. Be reasonable, be honest and make the choice for yourself.

Matthew Curry is a junior majoring in political science and environmental studies. Please send your feedback to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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