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Articles / Preparing for College / College: Some Cons And Pros

College: Some Cons And Pros

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | May 12, 2018

My post today might be best aimed at students early on in high school. Maybe ninth or tenth graders. I'll include parents, too, on my intended-audience list.

Unless you're residing in a different galaxy, I'm sure that you've read about what's happening on college campuses across America. It appears that student unrest, at least for a stentorian vocal group of students, has risen to a level that puts the Sixties college upheavals in second place. The issue isn't war; it's political correctness.

Back to you underclass high school students (and parents) … For some deeper thinkers among you, you may be wondering something along the lines of, “Do I really need to strive toward getting into a traditional four-year institution of higher learning and incur a possible near-lifetime of loan debt to get a “degree"?" That's a good, fair question.

Perhaps you are an Earthling, but have avoided the media over the past year or so for other reasons. If so, here are a few examples of what I mean about campus political correctness distracting from the goal of higher education:

– A university language guide stated that the word “American" was “problematic."

According to a “Bias-Free Language Guide" that was used by the University of New Hampshire, the word “American" is offensive and should not be used. Why? Because it “fails to recognize South America" and “assumes the U.S. is the only country inside these two continents" of course! It recommends using “resident of the U.S." instead, but I kind of feel like “I'm proud to be a resident of the U.S./Where at least I know I'm free" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Students berate professor who refused to participate in no-whites 'Day of Absence'

Over the last 72 hours, students have taken over a small liberal arts college in Washington state, and only one adult has tried to stop them.

Students at Evergreen State College in Olympia, who filmed their exploits and posted the videos on social media, have occupied and barricaded the library, shouting down anyone who disagrees with them or shows insufficient passion for racial justice.

Biology professor Bret Weinstein was berated by dozens of students outside of his classroom Tuesday morning for refusing to participate in an event in which white people were invited to leave campus for a day. Now, he says police have told him to hold his classes off campus due to safety concerns.

Things are “out of control at Evergreen," he said. …

– A university declared the phrase “politically correct" to be politically incorrect.

According to the “Just Words" campaign at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, PC is offensive because it “has become a way to deflect, say that people are being too 'sensitive.'" Great point! After all, just look at this list — it's not like anyone is ever being too sensitive ever.

For more examples, some even weirder than those above (if that's possible), check this list of links.

Trust me; this is going on throughout our great system of colleges and universities. So, a word to the wise who are thinking about beginning a college search: Check the student newspapers online from your candidate schools. There you will find the tone of a particular campus. Also, keep an eye on the Internet. Have you ever read The College Fix? It reports much of the politically charged happenings on campus that you won't see reported in the mainstream media. Here's an example from their latest edition:

Libertarian student draws ire for exposing biased UWisc classes. [She] also had her LinkedIn profile posted, called racist

Jessica Murphy, a 20-year-old student at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay, recently published a column that represented the culmination of months' worth of work and research, including a dozen public records act requests to the University of Wisconsin system.

Her target? Biased classes offered through the public university system that indoctrinate rather than teach, and “degrade capitalism, praise Marxism and encourage a 'social justice warrior' ideology," she wrote in her piece, headlined “Top Five Wasteful Classes in the UW System." …

This is a worthwhile read, for those of you unfamiliar with what's happening on campus these days.

Okay, okay. These are definitely on the “con" side of College Avenue, and you might have to put up with stuff like the above if you'e not careful about choosing your college. BUT, what are the alternatives?

That's a question many parents are asking themselves when faced with the likelihood that they will be entering into a much deeper world of sacrifice and debt when the Ivy gates open wide for their son or daughter. I've written before here about the rising tsunami of student debt. It's a fact, not speculation. Beginning one's working life saddled with a huge, long-term financial burden is not a desirable option. So, is college really worth it?

The Washington Post's Jenna Johnson has called our attention to a survey by the Pew Research Center that targets this very topic. Johnson notes, “It's an argument that keeps popping up, especially as budget cuts and economic conditions push many students and their families to question whether they are getting what they have paid for (or will pay for in the years after graduation).

“[S]ince the early 1990s, colleges have been reinventing themselves using a business model, transforming themselves into Diplomas Inc., run by a new breed of college administrator more interested in retaining customers than educating students," education reporter Craig Brandon wrote in his recent book, The Five-Year Party." Let's take a look at a summary of the Pew survey's key findings:

Cost and Value. A majority of Americans (57%) say the higher education system in the United States fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend . . .

Monetary Payoff. Adults who graduated from a four-year college believe that, on average, they are earning $20,000 more a year as a result of having gotten that degree . . .

Student Loans. A record share of students are leaving college with a substantial debt burden, and among those who do, about half (48%) say that paying off that debt made it harder to pay other bills . . .

Why Not College? Nearly every parent surveyed (94%) says they expect their child to attend college, but even as college enrollments have reached record levels, most young adults in this country still do not attend a four-year college . . .

Split Views of College Mission. Just under half of the public (47%) says the main purpose of a college education is to teach work-related skills and knowledge, while 39% say it is to help a student grow personally and intellectually . . .

For Most College Graduates, Missions Accomplished. Among survey respondents who graduated from a four-year college, 74% say their college education was very useful in helping them grow intellectually . . .

Above All, Character. While Americans value college, they value character even more. Asked what it takes for a young person to succeed in the world, 61% say a good work ethic is extremely important . . .


Pros and cons. Cons and pros. You should ask yourself this question:

For my position in life right now, along with my current mindset, circumstances, and college knowledge, do I feel absolutely certain about beginning the process of pursuing a formal, four-year college after high school?

At this point in your life, how would you answer that question? In my view, it's a real fence-sitter.

The cons battle the pros with authority and documentation, and the war continues the other way around. If you're searching for reasons to go to college, check out these links. If you're on the flip side of that search, check these.

Some say that Socrates observed that the unexamined life is not worth living. Others say that it was Plato. Maybe it was really Issac Newton. Who knows? Anyway, I would ask you to pause for a moment from your texting and social media to take a hard look at where your heart and mind are right now. If you thirst for knowledge and exposure to a much broader set of views and personal challenges, then college may be the answer for you. If, however, you're confused and disillusioned about a direction to go, perhaps you should take more time to consider your post-high school direction and consider some alternatives.

Bottom line: There are two sides to every street, even College Avenue.


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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