I have read quite a few articles lately about the rising costs in tuition with some even questioning whether college is worth it. College is both “worth it” and “not worth it” because it depends on the person and college or university one attends. It is their truth for those who say that college is not worth it and that they get along just fine without a degree. There are plenty of jobs that do not require a college degree and people without degrees save money by not paying off student debt. For many other people, including me, our truth is that our chosen careers now require at least a Bachelor’s degree.
The answer to whether college is worth it depends on the type of higher education one obtains. At liberal arts colleges, class sizes are generally smaller, a more interdisciplinary approach is taken, and critical thinking and writing is emphasized. At universities, class sizes are much bigger, there are more degrees and programs available, and students’ education will be directed within their major. There are also trade schools with job-specific training that teach students the skills they need for a certain trade.
Each type of education has its advantages and disadvantages, and each person’s needs for the type of education they should have are different. If a person needs a liberal arts approach and they are attending a university, hopefully they will realize this and transfer schools instead of just dropping out and saying that college is not a good fit for them. Those who have attempted all types of higher education and decide that college is not right for them, that is fine as well. My experiences are my own truth. I will soon be graduating from a liberal arts college (I have significant student debt, but not as bad as others), and earning my degree at a liberal arts college has been worth it due to the classes I have taken and the work experience I have gained.
I have two majors in English Literature and Communication, and a minor in Women and Gender Studies (the classes for my two majors also fulfill the requirements of my minor). The classes I have taken to complete my majors and minor, and to finish my college requirements, have given me an expansive and interdisciplinary education. To meet these requirements, I have taken biology, psychology, math, Spanish, and religion. Although my knowledge gained by taking these courses is not an active part of my life, there are times when I will draw on that knowledge to help me understand the world and people better.
For example, there was one time when I was answering the following essay question on a Communication exam: “If it is true when language only matters when we give it the power to, why can’t we make these words stop meaning what they do?” To answer this question, I explained how people learn to give words power based on Pavlov’s conditioning response experiment. In other words, I applied a psychological experiment to a Communication exam question. This happens all the time when I make connections between things that would not normally be made.
The classes I have taken to fulfill my majors have definitely been worth it. Through my English Literature classes, I have learned to think critically; to do in depth research; and to develop and sharpen my writing skills. I was taught history to consider the context in which a text was written, and I learned to analyze texts using many different literary criticisms. Furthermore, through in-depth class discussions, I have learned how one entity (which could be a novel, film, person, opinion, theory, etc.) can bring forth so many unique perspectives, opinions, and conclusions. Due to the interdisciplinary approach, I am now able to make connections between seemingly different things, like my previous example illustrates, and I can contribute these connections in class discussions and apply them in assignments. Most of all, I have learned the importance of doing my own research before I form opinions instead of trusting society, or a higher authority, to be unbiased and not manipulative of facts. I also gained many valuable lessons during my Communication courses.
I added a Communication degree halfway through earning my degree because I had hoped it would help me in my future career in editing and publishing. The concepts I have learned in these classes will not only help me in my career, but they also guide me in my life outside of school.
The classes that have been the most helpful in completing this major were interpersonal communication, group communication, nonverbal communication, and intercultural communication. Group communication will especially help me in the work force because this course was intensely focused on teamwork and being an effective team member. My knowledge gained from the other courses have and will help me to interact and learn from people in general.
For example, in interpersonal communication, we learned about the different stages of relationships and the different types of relationships. We learned how to deal with conflict and how to be an effective and empathetic active listener. I apply this knowledge continuously to my own relationships when I am trying to understand certain behavior or I am unsure of how I should be behaving. I am not a perfect communicator, but my communication skills have definitely improved after taking these classes. Therefore, even though I will be paying off my student debt for many years to come, getting my education has definitely been worth it.
In addition to earning a degree, there are many opportunities that have presented themselves. My biggest opportunity and work experience has been leading a staff of Editors and publishing an academic journal for the past two years. This experience has sharpened my project management and team building skills. More importantly, I gained credible experience in editing and publishing, which will be my main marketing point when I apply for jobs during my last semester before graduation. I do not think such an opportunity would have been available had I attended a different college or university because there would have been more competition to acquire an Executive Editor position.
I understand that college is not for everyone and that there are jobs which do not require an education. I also recognize the privilege I have in being able to obtain higher education. All I am saying is that the experiences and knowledge I have gained by attending a liberal arts college has been worth it, despite the cost of tuition. Furthermore, I encourage others to think critically about what they would gain, or have gained, by earning a degree.