Thanks to some unauthorized ball playing in my front yard, the rear window of my car had to be replaced, yesterday. When he arrived, the technician looked very familiar, although it took me most of the installation to figure out why: He attended a private elementary school when, in my late twenties, I taught computers one year and seventh grade (as an extended-term substitute) there.
In conversation, it turned out that he was consciously waiting on college until he could explain to himself why he was going. “I don’t want to end up back in this job, but with student loans,” he said. That’s wise for two reasons, to which I can speak from my own experience:
- What one studies in college matters, and despite the cliché that Baby Boomers handed down to subsequent generations, the cost of college is awfully high, these days, if it’s simply a period of self exploration. (As an aside, one can explore and define one’s self through any activity. The increasingly clear conclusion is that the progressives who define the popular culture like to brand college as the archetype of self discovery because they know their co-ideologues in the colleges will be happy to make the process a contrived scavenger hunt for their absurd ideas. In the real world, young adults might discover that hard work pays off, family is important, religion sheds light on life, and conservatives aren’t evil and, in fact, talk common sense.)
- A student who knows why he or she is attending college will do better, because he or she will take the work more seriously based on the tangible life goals that inspire it.
Simply put, a young adult who doesn’t know why he or she is going to college shouldn’t be there. Consider my former student. Indeed.com puts the average pay for auto glass installation in Providence at $41,000, and Salary.com puts the median at almost $52,000. Compare that with the median earnings of people ten years after they received federal aid to attend colleges in Rhode Island. (Keep in mind, of course, that the Indeed.com and Salary.com figures will include all employees from entry level to senior level, while the college data includes everybody from students who didn’t graduate to those with very targeted, high-income degrees.)
Only three of the twelve Rhode Island colleges listed beat the Salary.com number for auto glass installers, and only seven of them beat the lower Indeed.com number. Meanwhile, eight of the colleges cost as much or more per year as the estimated average salary for high school graduates ($25,000).
The pictures are more complicated for individuals, naturally. Only 16% of full-time CCRI students graduate within four years, but that could mean that they are taking a long-term approach to education while working or transfer to four-year colleges. (The methodology isn’t immediately clear.)
There is hope, however, in the possibility that younger generations are beginning to see college not as an expectation, but as a possible route to a better life for those who have a plan.