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Who Needs College? Essay

College education is one of the major characteristics of our society today. It is a controversial topic, discussed not only by politicians, professor, and sociologists, but also by ordinary people, who are affected by it directly. The need of a college degree and the process of education through our higher educational system became painful for some and still unclear for others. Today’s statistics and research data provides information on quantity and quality of our education and the possible outcome of it, which involves everyone in certain meditation about the actual need of a college degree. The world we live in today is a “battle field” where the traditional weapons are advantages of some warriors and disadvantages of others. Education is a privilege and certainly is considered as being the greatest advantage that one can use to open many doors in a world of opportunities. Linda Lee, an editor and writer for the New York Times, introduces her readers to a range of open questions and ideas about the need of a college education in her brief essay “Who Needs College?” Lee explains her personal ideas about college education as not being for everyone.

While getting personal about her son’s decision to become a college student, Lee arguments her ideas with statistics that show a rate of only 27 percent of Americans with bachelor degree or higher, while “two thirds of high school graduates go on to college” (24). Lee describes the path she went through while realizing the truth about “need to go” (24) to college. She describes her son’s college lifestyle as a “pleasure cruise” (25) for which she was paying $1000 not worth in the education equivalent. Lee argues in her article about the importance of a college degree in general, as according to research data mentioned in the article considerable part of graduates end up employed in the field not related to their major. The other parts of graduates’ are left alone with doubts about their career path. She states that majority of young people who enter college are convinced that college education is a door through which they might enter greater employment opportunities, when it should be more than that.

Lee concludes her discussion about college education by expressing proud feelings about her son, who finally decided his career path despite the college experience, having “his own graduation day” (26). One of the key points and truth stated by Lee in her essay is that America, as a society, is obsessed with college. While it is true to fact that U.S.A is the second country in the range of countries with the number of graduates, Lee states that “only 27 percent of Americans have a bachelor’s degree or higher” (24). Despite the unexpected low research data, credibility of this statistics can be questioned in perceiving higher education as whole. While discussing percentage of graduates, Lee did not take into consideration that 27 percent of American graduates is a general fact in terms of our multi-edged society.

As taking it a part, graduation rates may also be interpreted in terms of race, sex, age, ethnicity, and any other category, where data could range as high and low possible. While obsession is a quality that can awake negative reaction, obsession to be well educated and have a college degree is an advantage on the path to success. Ritual and group-thinking behavior is logical outcome that results out of mass-obsession. This appeared to be one of the arguments Lee made when explaining the reason why her son decided to go to college: because everyone else was. Mentioning the group behavior in this situation will probably count as a credit towards Lee’s ideas, as today’s society is educated and raised in spirit of collectivity. Emphasis made on college education today is more than ever strong, despite personal believes and circumstances, preparation and maturity. Young people decide to make one of the most important steps in their lives and pursue college education regardless any impediments.

As college degree is valued more than any mastered trade and abilities, it becomes more of a social lifestyle than an actual need or dream to have a degree. Meditation about importance and actual need of a college degree involves range of debates and arguments, one of which being success reached without official diploma. Lee argues about the need to get a college degree in a way that pushes her to make statements about successful people, who achieved great results in life and made themselves fortunes, great living accommodations and probably a decent place in our history, without any degrees and official college transcript. As Lee mentioned her hair colorist, who makes $300,000 a year without a degree, and famous wealthy people like Bill Gates, who also has not gone through educational levels, she is probably falling in category of people who make assumption and stereotyping based on too few examples and facts. Moreover, Bill Gates is one of many in the world who encourages education, and is one of founders of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has a mission of assuring young people reaching their full potential through education.

As he once said: “Every student needs a meaningful credential beyond high school” and “Higher education is crucial for jobs” only proves Lee wrong about successful careers and great opportunities without college education. While it can be true that someone without proper education is able to achieve great success and make a fortune, it cannot be applied to everyone. Lee should consider other factors that played considerable role in lives of these people. She generalized their success stories without any detailed sources and any other cited factors which could help them potentially achieve such results. College education certainly, is a powerful tool and a solid step towards greater opportunities and better employment options. One of the points Lee makes in her article is the fact that young people view today’s education as a better employment opportunity, when in fact it should be more than basic. It is true that education in general terms should be perceived more than a chance to get a better job, and should be valued more than just a basic right we, as citizens, have. Again, Lee could have credit here as well, as this is our reality today.

Despite being democratic, our society is getting on the path of bureaucracy more than ever before. Today, our society can in full range experience outcome of “template” handmade lifestyle. Experience acquired during the lifetime is a valuable asset and undoubtedly great advantage in competitive environment, but it worth not enough and appreciated less if it is not accompanied with certain level of education. Lee’s ideas about the system of higher education were born from personal experiences. She mentioned that her son out of college, being responsible and paying attention to details decided what he wants to be and to do (manager at the telecommunication company) without any college experience. With this said, experience is a great asset in one’s career path and still it is valued for certain reasons less than official degree certificate. It is possible to follow the career path that at one point will open the door to long desired position, without a degree, but how easier would it be achieved with one? If speaking in terms of monetary reward, Lee argues that this is the reason why young people pursue their education.

Probably this is one of the major reasons, but money is not everything and hopefully that college students today choose to graduate and have a major for other primary reasons. Every member of our society has a choice, a right and an obligation. Education, if discussed from this prospective is a privilege and great advantage that is much more than basic need or a society attribute. Lee’s article offered facts and ideas which have solid base, as statistics, but which in the whole context of education does not have value. It is so that only 26 percent of those who enter 4 year college earn a degree in six years, but the reasons and motifs why the number is so low were not even mentioned. Education today is more painful topic than ever before: tuition is extremely high, economy downturn is still present, and employment level is low. It is indeed our lifestyle which dictates us how we should act and in what manner, rather than true meaning of our concepts.

Being a college student today is one’s personal choice, a decision which is made in accordance with society’s expectations. If we follow the author’s thoughts carefully, we can see that she does not oppose college education, but only argues that not every one might need it or is ready for it. I do agree with her that deciding to pursue a degree involves responsibility and clear vision of a career path; it is expensive to decide what you want to be while already being a college student. I don’t think that her arguments have same power today as they had when the article was first published; priorities change, people change. Opportunities are not our rights, nor obligations. Opportunities are exclusive privileges that unfortunately cannot be enjoyed by everyone. Education is one of them; to not use it may be interpreted as the hardest sin ever committed by humanity. It is a key which can open many doors of opportunities and be our hope to a better and brighter future.


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