Thursday, July 23, 2009

"It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing."

I came across an interesting article a couple of weeks ago, asking whether a college degree is now worthless. It answers the question by saying that "The four-year college degree has come to cost too much and prove too little. It's now a bad deal for the average student, family, employer, professor and taxpayer."

The author talks about the "injustice" of the educational system itself - the astronomical (and ever-increasing) costs, the utter lack of true learning taking place, the veritable mess of red tape students have to go through in the name of academia (I added this last one, because it's true).

I remember my last few semesters at ASU. I was threatening to hunt faceless, nameless people down and kill them if it didn't turn out to be worth it like I had been promised it would. Jumping through academic hoops and paying for inconsistent teaching was not my idea of fun.

Back when I was still in school I read articles similar to the one I recently came across about indentured college graduates, saying that today's college graduates are the poorest generation ever.

Turns out, I still think it was worth it. I really believe that the fruits of my educational labors are that my salary is more than I would probably be making otherwise. I view the years I spent in college as two for one - if I'd not gone to school, I'd be working two years for every one academic year just to make the same as I'm making now. Then again, we were VERY frugal on the loans we took out to pay for school and walked away owing only $12k for two bachelor's degrees (which we're still paying off). We owe just a little over that for M's entire Master's program.

That it was worth it is just my opinion, despite the first author's take on "investment returns". Do I think there are other ways to accomplish similar ends? Yes. Do I know what they are? Other than working your tail off for a decade or so to climb the corporate ladder? No. And the article doesn't do anything to enlighten me on this point. Sad.

Even so, I'm contemplating returning to graduate school. I started a grad program at ASU, but have become fundamentally opposed to the politics there. I have friends and family who work on the inside and it just makes me sick that the university president, when perks and housing are added on, makes between $200 - 250k per year. No one in "public" education should make that much while simultaneously laying off employees and raising tuition rates (including for employees)!

To pay for the program I'm eyeing I'll probably raid all my retirement savings, go for broke as it were, and finance whatever that amount doesn't cover.

Will it be worth it? I'll likely have to quit my job - both to have the access to my retirement funds and to have the time to go to school while raising children - sacrifice time with my family, and brave the wide, circular, only-makes-sense-to-Them world of academia once again in the name of obtaining the almighty Degree.

When all is said and done, I'll have paid around $35k to have a Master's of Fine Arts in creative writing, with a teaching certificate to boot. So, at least it will be useful. Worth it? Who knows. But useful? Sure. Why not?

[Title quote is from "LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring"]

1 comment:

Trina said...

i think that in my field school was definately useful to get to where i needed. worth it, well sorta- with b's paycut i make more workin 24 hrs than he does workin 40. but i know the potential of what i could be making (around 60-70000/yr by myself) and with 'the economy' it's just still so far outta reach.

 
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