Some of us are hatchlings, just beginning college, while others are preparing to swim out from the comfortable CSU estuary and join the big fish in the rough, unforgiving open sea. What kinds of things do we really need to know about that ocean before we’re thrust headlong into it a short time from now?
It goes without saying that a quality education costs real money; all of us will pay for school, one way or another. And while we will undoubtedly gain countless skills and develop useful habits throughout our scholastic journey, most of us will be completely ignorant of the intricate dance that we will be expected to have miraculously perfected upon the completion of our collegiate habitation.
I’m referring to processes like paying off student debts incurred during the most expensive tuition era to date, looking for work in today’s increasingly scant job markets and taking those critical steps toward evolving into autonomous individuals who can thrive in the so-called “real world.”
This kind of information needs to be relayed to students in a way that encourages genuine praxis, rather than by some theoretical, effete internet brochure or in lengthy agreement terms. Thus, I’d like to see a mandatory course at CSU, which would be taken during the junior or senior year, to give students the tools to handle these issues once they’ve had a few years to decide what they want to study.
I’m not suggesting a course to help you get through college, like the required Composition 150, but a course that specifically enables you to navigate the post-college, post-support independent world. This would be much more beneficial to the average student than some of our current requirements, like basic math courses, since most students will graduate college with some amount of debt.
With a little bit of anticipation and foresight, we, as students, can greatly reduce the stresses of transitioning from school life to adult life. This holds true regardless of one’s major or career plans—we will all be expected to make adjustments once we have that coveted sheepskin.
I understand that universities like to keep curriculum relatively open and nonrestrictive, but academia’s primary concern should be to prepare posterity by developing in us a practical sense of responsibility, confidence and the wherewithal to face the challenges of tight budgets and supersaturated employment pools. This proposed course would be aimed at precisely that goal.
Before attending college, I would not likely have considered this to be an important issue, but one conversation opened my eyes to the necessity of such an educational course.
My best friend recently graduated from a liberal arts college in North Carolina, and when I asked him about the overall experience, his first response was surprising. Rather than reflect on the friendships forged, the memories made or the knowledge gained, he immediately expressed a valid complaint.
He said something to the effect of “I can’t believe how little they taught me about what to expect of life after college. They offered me these loans and told me that I’d be able to get my choice of a job to pay them off, but there is a disconnect between what I know and what life demands now that I’m a debt-ridden college graduate in a slumping economy.”
He alleged that most of the friends he graduated with are feeling the same thing, and he suggested that a delayed requirement course would have enabled them to avoid a good deal of the stress they are experiencing.
I have not yet graduated, but I can certainly learn from the experiences of others. My own education has cost a significant amount of money due to out-of-state tuition, and I have accepted and spent more than a few thousand dollars in loans. At this juncture, I admit that the reality of those loans seems to be on par with the reality of Monopoly money.
But some day soon, I’ll get a letter or an email from a remote and impersonal agency asking me to begin making loan payments of real money, not Monopoly bills. In all honesty, I don’t know as much as I ought to about what that process entails.
Given the inevitability of this forthcoming collection day for any student who accepts a loan, I feel that colleges are somewhat obligated to install a financial planning and job market maneuvering course into their curriculum that focuses on paying back student loans and techniques for finding employment.
Jason Kincaid is a junior philosophy major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.