Photo by Aaron Hawkins, via Flickr

August 29, 2017 Mollie Finnegan 0Comment

Bachelor’s degrees are becoming the new High School Diploma.

Entering my last semester at the University of Cincinnati, I reflect upon my past three years and know without a doubt that I have made several great investments in my future. I have formed connections with peers and professors, learned a great amount in a wide variety of classes, and have honed my skills to make me a qualified candidate to enter the workforce come December, when I receive my diploma.

In the same breath, I can look at others in my classes who have not experienced the success I have, and others whom it seems may not share in my transition into the workforce. Does this make me an elitist because I believe I am more cut out for college than others? Or is it the simple truth that some of my peers have been led down the wrong path? I think it is important for our culture to stop looking at college as the only route for someone to move up in this world, and instead look at all the ways an individual can succeed in life.

Last week, Mike Rowe, host for “dirty Jobs” and self-proclaimed advocate for trade professions, was accused on Facebook for supporting the same ideas as White-Nationalists and Republicans who are leading the “anti-intellectualism” movement that is supposedly sweeping the nation. Rowe responded by demonstrating how the man was linking the groups together without any proof, and exposed the danger of propagating these falsehoods.

He later went on to explain that his support of non-degree jobs does not perpetuate a hate for intelligence, but rather illustrates how a “non-traditional” path could benefit society, and the individual who embarks on it. His arguments have been made before, and will continue to be debated, but I could not agree more with the notion that there are more options out there for future workers than a four-year degree.

“To the girl in my public speaking class majoring in Art History with a minor in Gender Studies, you have followed your passions, or as another professor explained, you have followed your hobbies.”

College is expensive. Even on scholarship and financial aid, I will leave college with debt that will take me several years to pay off. Luckily, I have chosen a degree that will give me the opportunity to make headway on my debt, and will prove beneficial in the long run. Some of my classmates were not as careful when it came to picking their future degrees. To the girl in my public speaking class majoring in Art History with a minor in Gender Studies, you have followed your passions, or as another professor explained, you have followed your hobbies.

These two examples have become part of a running joke criticizing “useless” degrees many college students have chosen to pursue. But what is worse than the satire that surrounds it is the fact that they still are still propped up as viable career paths. Many college students fall into the trap of picking a major with exciting classes, without seeing how it applies to the job market out in the elusive “real world.”

Society will hopefully  continue to appreciate art, but we don’t need ten thousand curators. We do need plumbers, electricians, ultrasound techs, and mechanics. These types of jobs have become more important — and profitable — because the number of people entering those fields is decreasing. With campaigns centered on making colleges free, more and more people will go to college in pursuit of useless degrees just because the taxpayer is paying for it. I know I would have majored in something more interesting to me than Communications had I not known I would be the one to float the bill after four years. Trade schools and other technical options offer students real work experience, in a shorter amount of time and exponentially lower tuition rates.

Another reason we should stop solely promoting a traditional four-year degree as the only means for a successful future is because of degree inflation. If everyone has a bachelor’s degree, then what is so significant about it anymore? Just because I have one does not mean I am more qualified than someone else, because they too have a degree. Soon a bachelor’s degree will become like that of the high school diploma and fail to satisfy the needs of the employers. Thus shifting to the Master’s degree as the new standard. That means people will be in school longer, accumulate more debt, and often times miss out on getting real work experience.

College is arguably one of the best investments an individual can make in regards to having a secure future, but I believe it is harmful to limit ourselves to just that. We need to explore and promote other areas for people to look into. A society that values only the academic side of humanity does not help destroy “the anti-intellectual” argument, but instead just promotes ignorance. It’s great to have a hearty supply of history majors and graphic designers, but what about the next time you are in desperate need of a plumber?

Follow this author on Twitter: @mollie_finnegan

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