The millennial generation has been raised to believe that everyone should go to college to reach success. We could blame our parents, or our parents’ parents, or we could wake up and smell the sulfur in our own coffee. The reality is that a career’s worth is proportional to its social contribution, and the current American social climate underappreciates critical, financially stable professions that discredit the mythical promise that a four-year education is the only route to success.
We need to get off this bandwagon. We create a monopoly of American success through the university system that transforms higher education from its altruistic origins into a business more concerned with status than student success. The system increasingly gets away with taking advantage of its customers: us. They force us into a collective action dilemma of either paying highly inflated costs like everyone else or facing socially undervalued careers.
Universities fail the pre-med student weeded out of a class taught by a professor with subjective standards versus the standards of the MCAT. They fail students being charged on average $1,800 to take a labor force class that doesn’t qualify them to join the labor force. They fail the students buckling under structural flaws by offering counseling instead of restructuring their system. The university enterprise must copy the business strategies of its competitors to remain marketable, even if it means upholding structures that are not beneficial to students.
We have to shift our cultural attitude about what quantifies American success. We control the capitalist market universities use to fool us that we have no other professional options. University competition with strengthened technical schools and community colleges depends on their representation as the viable options they are, which is only possible if we stop using college degrees as political boasting points or rungs on the ladder of social superiority.
College is a beautiful thing, but to protect it, we must keep it altruistic. The need for increased priority on technical training alongside college education is never quite so obvious as when the pinnacle of higher learning temporarily collapses because of a broken water pipe.
What’s really broken here?