“There’s a time and a place for everything … It’s called college.” -Chef Jerome McElroy
When I was growing up, the question wasn’t, “Are you going to college?” It was, “Where are you going to college?” I attended a state university right after high school, but in hindsight, that wasn’t the best money ever spent. When I turned eighteen, I couldn’t wait to move out and be on my own (way before I realized how many bills come with being an adult). So, I said goodbye to home and off to college I went. If I learned anything that first year, it was that a body can survive on peanut butter, ramen, and beer.
After a couple of years, between working to pay my bills and studying for classes I was not that interested in attending, I decided to drop out. I continued to live with roommates and enjoy “the college experience” but instead of class, I just went to work. My pat answer as to when I would go back to school was, “I will, as soon as I need a degree to get what I want out of life.” So far, that hasn’t happened, but you never know what the next few decades may bring … I like to say, I’m the first one in my family not to graduate from college.
However, I wholeheartedly believe education should be available to anyone and everyone who wants it — especially those who study. If, like me, you’re just going to major in mind-altering substances and rugby match after-parties, then maybe try trade school or take some time to work and find out what you really want. But as long as students are passing their courses, I would happily watch my tax dollars go to making college affordable and accessible for any/all Americans. In much the same way my husband and I don’t gripe about our property taxes supporting local schools. Sure, we don’t have kids, but that doesn’t mean we want to be surrounded by idiots when we’re old.
A college friend of my husband’s, now with a kid of his own in college, has a plan to avoid throwing money down the old college drain. Our friend is able and willing to pay for every course in which his son earns a passing grade. However, if he fails or drops a class, he will have to pay for that himself. Why don’t we incorporate this idea into our nation’s higher education system? College students must only reimburse their tuition for every class failed or dropped. That way, every student with the drive and desire to attend classes has the opportunity, and the rest of us can go get a job to supplement our hours of lounging on the couch, smoking a bong in our pajamas.
I wonder if my life would be much different than it is today if I had graduated from college all those years ago. If I had gone to Vassar, or some such ivy-covered campus where I studied late at night in my knee socks instead of keg hopping through the dorms in my flip flops. A few times in my life I have had the distinct impression I am right where I am supposed to be. Like déjà vu, except not in the sense that I’ve been on the same path before, more like I would be at this particular crossroads no matter which path I had taken.
So far, life without a college diploma has been challenging and exhilarating; a winding path of accomplishments and pitfalls. And the only thing I really know for sure is that there is more to learn. Well, that and the fact that I’m not hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. We are bankrupting our future. College is about much more than a piece of paper. It is a time to experiment, mature, figure out who we are and which path to take first … There are nuances to life that we can’t fathom until we are living on our own, building ourselves, and using ketchup packets as a sauce. College should be a grace period before the harsh reality of adulting, i.e., debt comes knocking at the door.