You can opt out of college: Life’s diploma

Holly MayerOnly a single-digit percentage of the world’s population goes to college. With such a small number, why does it seem that in America college is the only option after high school?

High school is doing a disservice to our young people by keeping them on the straight and narrow path towards college, instead of educating them on all the possibilities out there. When my parents were in high school (1950s) their guidance counselors informed them not only of four-year institutions, but also trade schools and entry level positions that did not require degrees.

Back then you were not considered dumb or lazy if you chose to become a plumber or a mechanic. In fact, sometimes these occupations paid more than a job that required a four-year degree and these individuals were very much respected as masters of their crafts.

Fast forward a few years and the attitude in high schools now is not if you’re going to college but when. I am all for pushing individuals to reach their full potential. However, what I am not for is telling teenagers that college is the only way to success. When I look around at our own community, it seems as though there are just as many miserable people with master’s degrees as there are people who wait tables or pave driveways.

Happiness does not have prerequisites. Everyone has that right, regardless of their educational background.

This message is also putting pressure on parents to start saving for college even before the child is born. Speaking as a parent, it is already stressful enough supplying clothes and food, let alone money for college. Imagine the balancing act for families with two or more children. Essentially, they are cutting back on things now to supply something for the unknown future.

All of this revolves around money. It is tacitly promised that if we spend a lot of money going to school, then we will get that job which will make a lot of money. Tell that to the 3.7 percent unemployment rate among bachelor degree-holding adults.

In this country, there is currently a demand for positions that are trained positions. But the rumor is that these jobs do not make as much money as the jobs that require degrees. While this may be the case in some situations, just like with any job, experience moves you up the salary tree.

Did you know some hairdressers are making almost $67,000 or more after spending five or more years in the industry? You may get paid more at a job that requires a degree. However, the move up not only will you need time under your belt, your company may say that a master’s degree is a ticket to the next promotion. Sounds like more student loans and financial frustration.

And what ever happened to money not being able to buy happiness? We keep saying we want bigger and better, and then complain that we have to work that much harder to afford it. Why not live a life where what matters is your overall happiness, despite your job title? We need to stop thinking about our “status” and start thinking about the quality of the things in our life that cannot be bought. I would rather be working in a factory and have a smile on my child’s face when I get home than have a child who never sees me because I am spending 60 hours a week at a job that I got with my degree.

I understand that times have changed –– but the value of education has not. Whether you find that education in a four-year institution or elsewhere, life is the biggest educator. Quantifying the quality of one’s life according to the school they attended or the major they choose indicates that the four-year education received has not really taught its graduates anything. To move our nation forward, we need to reevaluate our education system while also assuring our youth that choosing to opt out of college is not a death sentence.