Yahoo, as part of its “Born Digital” series, asked students and parents to write about how college has changed over a generation. Here’s one perspective.
FIRST PERSON | On Sept. 4, I’ll return for my second semester at Community College of Philadelphia. Yes, I’m 21, and I didn’t enroll last fall, which would have been the “real” beginning of the academic year; however, after taking a year (OK, two or three…) off to pursue my more creative interests, which included self-publishing one of my novels,
I finally decided international studies was the field that really interested me. With this degree option, I have the freedom of studying Spanish and Mandarin Chinese, two languages I really love and that reflect my love of culture and foreign travel; I am hoping to land a job in journalism when I graduate in the spring of 2015.
Allow me to take a moment for family history. I was born and raised in England, to an English mom and a dad who was serving in the U.S. Air Force; when my siblings and I were still kids, Dad moved the family back to America. When my mom was growing up in England, college was seen as a good (and very affordable) thing to do, but wasn’t necessary for those looking to advance themselves in the world. Instead, apprenticeships allowed the young to gain experience in fields ranging from radio broadcasting to secretarial work.
Was college seen as instrumental to happiness or success? Heavens, no! One could do just as well without a degree.
The same thing held true with my dad, who studied architecture at Texas A&M before realizing that his true calling lay in serving his country. College was not seen as the be-all and end-all for him, even though it provided him the opportunity to play American football at a higher level.
Even in the classroom, technology didn’t play as great a role as it does today. Whenever it came to writing essays, for instance, the professor would simply write out the details and requirements on the board, and the students wouldn’t have the privilege of typing it in the comfort of their dorms. Now, in my school, in-class essays are only reserved for the final exams.
Does this help or harm? I think it does a bit of both. The ability to use a computer for an essay or research undoubtedly makes it easier on the student, but at the same time can run the risk of making one complacent. For example, it can be a lot easier to procrastinate on a research paper because of the current accessibility to information.
In addition, I have found, in America, at least, that higher education plays a major role in deciding one’s future employment. I understand that this doesn’t apply to everyone, but when one thinks about the professions that are considered “hot” right now, they usually require someone to at least have their associate’s degree.
In theory, I suppose, it’s not such a terrible thing, but with the added emphasis placed on college education comes the ever-rising costs. Even community colleges don’t seem to be immune from this. So while the importance of a college degree has greatly increased, so too has the anxiety on students who find themselves facing mountains of debt.
I’m fortunate not to be included in that number, though I will admit that rising tuition have forced me to re-evaluate my original plans for higher education; even though Community College of Philadelphia’s average tuition is just more than $5,000 a year, universities are a completely different ball game. Once I’d graduated from Community College of Philadelphia, my ideal school would have been the University of Pennsylvania, but with its estimated $45,890 tuition, I’m forced to decide if I would rather go to a more affordable school or stare down a steep tuition. And that is not something that my parents had to deal with.