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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Don’t let academia distract from learning

It’s that time of the year. That time when graduating students are asked, hourly, “”What are you going to do when you graduate?”” You watch them sigh with exaggeration, laugh with sarcasm or just look downright confused.

For the past four years, we’ve felt safe.

And we do feel safe as students, despite the loans we have to take out or those infamous tuition increases. We feel safe because we’re not competitively fighting for a job. The job market is a scary place. I’ve been led to believe it’s because there aren’t any jobs; Fox News told me so.

A topic titled, “”Overinvesting in Higher Education,”” discussed in the Room for Debate section of The New York Times, states that, “”It used to be that a college degree was a ticket to a prosperous upper-middle-class life. As the number of college graduates has grown faster than the number of relatively high paying jobs, more college graduates are not achieving the goal of getting relatively high paid jobs.””

While our society shifted its mindset to encourage the college endeavor among youth in America, something else was happening. Something else was affecting the world outside our safe campuses that are constructed like mini-airports to maintain our subconscious dependence on the institution itself.

The economy collapsed. Gasps ensued. We have a two-party system that can’t reach a consensus and filibusters each other’s budget proposals, or lack thereof. Let’s blame the president because he can’t balance a budget that’s been warped by past presidents, but let’s not point fingers.

Frankly, we don’t have time to get into that mess because it’s one we’ll never fully understand. We, as students, aren’t taught to recognize the climate we’ll enter into once we graduate, which is a scary realization. Especially when your major isn’t one invested in for profit. So what are we doing here then if not to be hired upon graduation?

Not only are majors disqualified as being areas that are fundable, competitive for research opportunities or worth employing, but our institutions are being discredited as being competitive in general. What was once accessible is now not enough.

Another New York Times article states that Stanford accepted only 7.07 percent of their total 34,348 applicants this year, which undermines what makes a qualified student for an institution that has a larger graduate student population than undergraduate. Because isn’t graduate school the next step? And if we want a well-paying career with benefits, don’t we want to aim for the institutions that will give us that credibility?

This is where the big black hole of the “”real world”” begins to warp how American higher education has shaped our perceptions of what our futures look like. We are not just risking putting our futures in loan debt for an undergraduate education. We are also risking our lives outside of being a student.

For me, choosing to be an English major never meant wishing to make money, and going to college didn’t mean life was fulfilled forever. I was lucky to have an older sister go through the motions before me, helping me see the reality of obtaining a higher education. If it weren’t for her unconventional path of finding a career while obtaining a degree, I wouldn’t have realized that we all have different ways of getting to the end goal.

We are trained to think in four years. But when those four years are up, and there isn’t a job waiting at the end even though you nearly killed yourself to get there, what does that mean?

What it means to take time off before the next step seems to be a hidden option that isn’t emphasized, and is sometimes felt to be unacceptable. But we’ve got to realize the value in living life as a human with passions. What is our future if we aren’t engaged in the present? If we aren’t given what we envisioned our degrees would give us? Think critically.

Don’t doubt your capabilities as an academic that prospered in the American education system. Blame the system above, which has done nothing to protect the value of your degree, or encourage you to live life in a way that you don’t have time for now. Live through your passions, not your imagined wallet.

 

— Elisa Meza is a junior studying English. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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