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KEMBURU: College should not be framed as only option after high school

Opinion Column: An Optimist's Opinion

In perhaps the greatest known college admissions cheating scandal, big names like Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman and several CEOs have been implicated and indicted with federal charges. This entire scam was orchestrated by William Singer, CEO of the college admissions preparatory company The Key. 

Singer was the one who hired a third party to take the SAT or ACT in the place of students and bribed the administrators of the test. He also bribed college coaches to help recruit students as college athletes, even though they were not. What is truly disheartening, perhaps, is that this scandal stands as proof that the wealthy can buy their way out of anything or into anything. 

Ever since the media has first gotten hold of this scandal, people have had a newfound interest in Lori Loughlin’s daughter, Olivia Jade, a student at University of Southern California. Jade is a social media influencer and YouTuber who has never been quiet in voicing her feelings about college. Though these comments have definitely not aged well in light of this scandal, they deserve to be heard and further explored. 

In a YouTube video in August 2018, she detailed how she was going to college for the experience of it rather than her education: “I don’t know how much of school I’m going to attend. But I do want the experience of, like, game days, partying … I don’t really care about school.” On the Zach Sang Show, she also talked about how she was primarily attending college to appease her parents, and said: “Mostly my parents really wanted me to go because both of them didn’t go to college.”

While it is easy to see and hear these kinds of comments and become enraged by this attitude toward higher education — a privilege that many in America do not receive — it has to be remembered that Jade already has a career, and one that was doing quite well before the scandal.   

Why, then, did her parents push her to go to college? Why are many teenagers pushed to go to college? The typical answer to this question is that college can help individuals further educate themselves, and that a degree would help them secure a job that would likely pay well. But, it can be seen that more and more often, this stands to be false. 

Due to the hindering debt — about $27,000 — that most collect during their time in college, people leave college looking for the easiest ways to pay it off. “For those caught in the limbo of more precarious labor, the burden of finding the means to pay off student debt may drastically reduce the choices traditionally available to the college-educated workforce,” said Andrew Ross, a professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. So, with student debt increasingly threatening the future and limiting the career options of our youth every day, why do we still choose to set our sights on college? 

I propose that a large part of it is because of societal normalities and social prestige. College is constantly being pushed upon us as the one and only option, and other paths such as trade school and entry-level jobs tend to be looked down upon. “It has been made clear that if you don’t get good grades and attend a four-year college, the rest of your life will be a dismal failure,” said Dale Stephens, founder of UnCollege. This is due to the basic assumption that a higher education will pave the way for your future. 

But, studies have found that as many as 45 percent of students show no improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning or written communication during their first two years in college. This is evidence that a college education does not guarantee that a student will actually learn new skills and gain more knowledge. In fact, other paths such as trade school and entry-level jobs can provide the same — if not higher — level of experience. 

It is important to understand that I am in no way demeaning the experiences and the education that one receives in college, but I also think it is important for society to recognize that there are other respectable means of making a living, and that college is not and will not be for everyone. Maybe if the parents of Jade had realized and come to terms with this fact, a more deserving and grateful student would be attending University of Southern California. 

There are other paths that an individual can take after they graduate high school. It is time we open up and recognize them.

Anusha Kemburu is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year   majoring in political science. Her column, “An Optimist’s Opinion,”  runs  on alternate Thursdays.


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