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Meredith Butler Instructor: Malcolm Campbell English 1103 October 31, 2012 Is College Necessary? How the Socially Accepted Belief Could Be Misleading. World War II, Nazi Germany. Jewish prisoners and victims stand two more hours in a line with fellow disoriented citizens to wait to be assigned a number that will forever be inked into their wrist. Disoriented, scared, and anxious to what may lie behind the intimidating doors of the internment camps they don’t know what to make of their numbers. Fast-forward to the survivors and ask them of their tattooed numbers. Memories fade, physical pain goes away with time and faces become less familiar, but the number is always there. The number they must continue to live with, even in their new futures. Today, thousands of high school graduates move in to their first semester in college scared and anxious as well and with their own tattooed number, just not etched into their skin. Fast forward to college graduation, a day of excitement and the beginning of a new future but most will continue to live with their hidden tattoo well into their new careers; their massive student loans in the thousands. Although much less dramatic than tattoos given in internment camps during World War II, symbolically student debts have the potential of having the same haunting affects. It’s the factors like the increasing amount required to get through to college that is sparking a new way of looking at education globally. Finally gaining momentum and attention, there has been a great push towards revising or at least analyzing and critiquing the once

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accepted belief that going to college after high school is what is acceptable, required, and smiled upon. The truth of the matter remains that student debts put an unreasonable price tag on an individual’s education, the college environment and classrooms are becoming outdated and illsuited for teaching, and creativity and passion is being dampened and suppressed by standardized education such as college. When asking students about the drawbacks of college, tuition costs are among the highest objection mentioned. And it’s within reason; tuition costs are the equivalent to putting a price tag on one’s education and, matched with the common belief that a college education will give way to a prosperous future, it’s also putting an ultimatum on one’s future stability. According to the website (OSD) average tuition costs have increased 900 percent since 1978 with 36 million Americans today still working to pay off student loan debts they acquired while receiving an education (OSD). The tuitions costs are continually rising, making paying for a decent college education difficult and stressful on both students and their support systems. For example, websites like and its partner, much like the Occupy Wall Street movement, are websites to combat tuition raises as well as encourage students to peacefully protest in order to make a point. It’s no strange phenomenon to see media focusing on college student protests whenever a college mentions higher tuition. If there’s one thing students get really emotional about its tuition. Debt is a lasting consequence that is difficult to get rid of as well. Some sixty year olds are still paying off debt today. Additionally, the consequences that can arise from prolonged student debt include bad credit, limits on opportunities, and hardships on living conditions and jobs. With 53% of new graduates facing difficulty finding jobs and facing unemployment, the

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default rate is estimated at one in five. In the United States, student loan debt has even managed to pass credit card debt (OSD).

This debt will follow newly graduates into their new careers and into their futures. Instead of starting clean and fresh, these graduates are perhaps facing worse conditions than others who don’t have such debt in such a difficult economy. As describes, “student debt is delaying the steps of adulthood that are considered crucial to following the American dream, and withholding vital consumer spending that can stimulate the economy” (Occupy). With such high costs, so much at stake, and the chance that things still might not work out in the end, why put forth all that money for a slim chance at success?

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So what if I told you that you could learn everything you’d learn in college without ever having to pay those tuition fees or step foot in a lecture hall? Well a common idea has been surfacing within this emergence of analyzing college: the idea that instead of learning experiences in a classroom setting you can learn them even better, and with more meaning, in the real world. It seems pretty simple; things always have more meaning to a person when it happened to them directly. But if that should be the case, colleges wouldn’t be here today. For example, Peter Thiel, Facebook investor and billionaire, decided to test this theory by giving 24 young adults currently in college $100,000 to drop out. A year later, two of these “Thiel Fellows” created an ecommerce website, one won a $260,000 young entrepreneurship award, and one sold his website on music gigs for over six figures (Hindman). Without having to go through college, these young adults were able to become successful on their own terms by their own means in only a year; they serve as a perfect example that classrooms and lectures aren’t necessary if you have the drive. Dale J. Stephens, another Thiel Fellow and founder of the website, goes one step further and tries to teach young adults the skills they need without stepping foot in a classroom. was founded to motivate young adults looking into college to step outside the box and “hack their own education” through self-discovery methods and meaningful experiences (UnCollege). In short, with its UnCollege Manifesto, the teachings focus on selfmotivation and worth by using experiences and reinforcement that feels more personal and organic than the classroom setting. Teachers may try to be inviting and a college may be very fitting for a young adult, but Dale supports the idea that some things can’t be taught through lecture but live by an individual. Because the idea is only just picking up attention, Dale strives to combat the stereotypical standard reasons for going to college, such as building a network,

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self-discovery, learning in an engaging and vigorous learning community, and earning a degree that will put you one step ahead of others when choosing a career. All these, he goes on to explain, are over-exaggerated and over represented. The best way to learn is hands on, the network you make should not be your dorm mates and the smokers you meet every night by the benches, and the last place one wants to be to learn is college (Ojalvo). While society may have the enlightened vision of students spending every night studying and having educational discussions, it doesn’t always turn out that way. While I cannot generalize all college students and assume the worst, and while I’m sure it’s not all bad, there is usually equilibrium between classes and one’s sense of fun in college. Additionally, another big component against colleges is the environment, whether that is the campus or the classes themselves. We know a healthy and inviting environment creates a pleasant and more open learning experience. However, with colleges, it’s sometimes difficult to achieve that environment. Assistant professor Jennifer Morrow, who focuses on college student development and teaching research, understands that “approximately 22% of first-year college students do not return for their sophomore year”, 65 percent of those left for non-academic reasons (Morrow). These reasons can be a student’s uncertainty of what they want, adjustment problems such as meeting people, and a lack of acceptance and welcome from the institution itself. College is a transition and no matter what classes we take to adjust, it’s an individual experience. Finally, following the same lines as Morrow and Stephens, many who are rising against colleges have a common worry on the safety of an individual’s creativity and passion in college. While colleges strive and advertise a very individualistic approach, where an individual can be completely themselves and excel at their talents, many seem to disagree completely.

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Instead, it seems as if colleges, while perhaps unintentionally, reduce passion and individuality; a false advertisement on the college’s part. “I believe this passionately:” says Sir Ken Robinson, an international advisor on education in the arts, “that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out if it” (Robinson). It’s not that creativity is learned but rather given at birth and the only place to go with our given creativity is down, as we see with the education systems. Similarly, Dale Stephens agrees by stating that what we learn in college is the same skills we knew from high school: how to follow directions, meet deadlines, and memorize facts so we can pass our tests (Ojalvo). There seems to be little room in between for creativity and expression, for passion. And it’s not uncommon for many to just stick to what they’re relatively good at but don’t like, just because they don’t know their own talents or what they’re passionate about. Robinson goes on to explain that our current educational system follows the model of fast food: standardized and conformed, when really we need an agricultural approach in which education is tailored to a person and where colleges create the conditions under which an individual on their own can flourish. It’s not evolution we need, but a revolution (Robinson). There is a stigma that education follows a linear routine, that there is a set path you must follow in order to position yourself for a life of success and prosperity. But life is organic and more often than not, cannot fit into molds. We’re individuals, and being so, we’re unique. Two people can experience the same phenomenon and each have a different reactions. I thoroughly believe the same principle applies to schools and ways we learn. However, like all good arguments, there’s always disagreement. Years back no one would have thought of criticizing colleges and only now is it gaining momentum and attention. Not to mention it’s the topic of education; students have an opinion, parents have an opinion, and

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professors are going to have an opinion about our current system. This is important to a lot of people. Those in favor of our current system still believe in the commonly accepted beliefs: that a degree is valuable, that there are more opportunities available, and that college serves to establish a network for oneself. Jeff McGuire, advice columnist on claims that by going to college you’re opening yourself to new opportunities but more importantly, to books and lectures by professionals, thus encouraging students to be curious, ask questions, and think outside the box (McGuire). However, one must not just assume curiosity and the drive to ask questions comes from colleges alone. Curiosity is human nature; it is fundamental to our survival but also to our personalities and lifestyles as well. Lectures may provide a wider array of information to be curious about, but if an individual has the drive, the curiosity, and the will to continually discover new things and think outside the box, a college education won’t be too significant. Additionally, there’s a push with those who support college to think beyond an individual. James Applegate, Vice President of Lumina which promotes higher education in America, is pushing more for a global, worldview approach. Applegate believes the United States is falling below current standards in education around the world. Because of this Applegate proposes Goal 2025 where, in order to remain in par with the rest of the world the United States must “produce 278,000 graduates per year, every year: a 6.3% annual increase” from where we are currently standing (5). Applegate encourages American youth into colleges as a way to solidify and maintain America’s status as an educated, democratic power. He’s urging a higher motive not as an individual but as a world view. However, while I understand wanting to maintain America’s status and global image, in this circumstance I believe the individual is more important. This is pertaining to an individual’s future, and thus related to

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America’s future. It’s this generation of young adults that will soon become prominent members and leaders in the United States. While pushing out graduates like manufactured goods might be faster and simpler, the results will be one of conformity and standardization with untapped talents and a lack of passion. By focusing on the individual, we’re creating a great diversity of individuals who are each prepared to pick up the responsibility and keep moving forward from their own experiences, not from a degree. High school graduates face a tough decision after graduation. They must both look ahead into their future while looking down to make sure they’re on what they deem to be the right path for them. I absolutely support a major analysis of the current educational system pertaining to colleges. While currently accepted to be necessary, colleges are losing their status fast due to their extreme tuition costs that lead to student debts, outdated and overbearingly formal environment and classrooms, and suppression of creativity and passion. This is increasingly becoming an issue. Ever generation pushed through our linear path of the educational system is one step away from the great potential we can, and have the right, to be. College is losing its potential and in today’s world of innovation, it’s no longer a necessity if a young adult has the drive. These are our neighbors, peers, children, nephews and nieces we’re talking about. Let them decide their future before pushing obligations, stigmas and expectations of their future into their open arms.

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Work Cited Applegate, James L. "Graduating The 21St Century Student: Advising As If Their Lives (And Our Future) Depended On It." NACADA Journal 32.1 (2012): 5-11. Education Research Complete. Web. 15 Oct. 2012. Hindman, Nate C. "Peter Thiel Fellows One Year Later, Income Hard to Come By.", Inc. 08 Oct. 2012. Web. 20 Sept. 2012.

McGuire, Jeff. “Importance of College Education: Why it is Important to go to College.” Hobson, n.d. Web. 4 Oct. 2012. Morrow, Jennifer Ann, and Margote E. Ackermann. "Intention To Persist And Retention Of First-Year Students: The Importance Of Motivation And Sense Of Belonging." 46.3 (2012): 483-491. Web. 15 Oct. 2012. Occupy Colleges. 2012. Web. 25 Sept. 2012. Occupy Student Debt. OSD, 2012. Web. 23 Oct. 2012. Ojalvo, Holly Epstein. “Why Go To College At All?”, The New York Times Company. 02 Feb. 2012. Web. 13 Sept. 2012. Robinson, Sir Ken. “Bring on the Learning Revolution.” Ted Conferences, LLC, May, 2010. Web. Sept. 2012. Stephens, Dale J. UnCollege, 2012. Web. 23 Sept. 2012.

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“U.S Student Loan and Credit Card Debt.” Chart. Web. 13 Sept. 2012

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Peer Review Comments. 1. Mere, this was a very well thought out essay that has lots of passion over a very new controversial topic. I think it would be useful to your paper if you explained why the United States is falling behind in the educational system. 2. Do you have a personal view on how we should fix this problem? Could be a fiscal change? Or maybe something else? 3. You used great analogies in your essay to show the reader what your viewpoint was. Maybe use some more visual art to portray your position on the issue though, and allow the reader to see the statistics you laid out in the paper.