Let’s face it: the major advantage of college is often not the accumulation of knowledge, which a dedicated person can accumulate on his own through personal study and experience, but the granting of credentials, which is controlled by the institutional academic system. Because of the monopoly the academic system has on credentials, people who have already accumulated knowledge have very few ways to vet themselves when it comes to what they may already know.
At one time, many people just accepted this process and went ahead and got degrees because there was no other way. Now, however, the pathway is not as simple and is far more onerous than it was before.
First, there is the problem of the cost of modern education. Granted that people with degrees make more than people without them, the cost of a paying off the debt accrued to get a degree also represents a significant drag on the finances of otherwise successful people. Many people fail to get degrees because of the financial hardship such a pursuit creates rather than because they academically incapable of finishing.
Second, there is the problem of “general education”. The academic system has determined that, in order to be well rounded, every degree candidate must accumulate dozens of hours in academic subjects that have little or anything to do with their actual academic pursuit. When coupled with cost, this phenomenon is, I believe, the predominant reason that many people fail to graduate.
Of course, the solutions to these problems are difficult and complex, but the problems themselves bring up a powerful question: should someone pursue a degree simply to have the credentials? Is the value of the credentials worth the cost of obtaining them?
I am curious what the rest of you think.
One of the aspects of higher education that has haunted me since I first set foot in a college classroom in 1992 is the fact that getting a degree takes so long. Granted, I have not helped myself by changing my mind so many times about what I want to be degreed in, and my previous career choices have not helped my cause, but underneath all of those other considerations is the fact getting a degree is not an undertaking easily done by someone with a short attention span.
Winter quarter 2010 represents my 12th consecutive quarter in the classroom since I went back to school in the winter of ’07. Since then, I have earned three associate’s degrees, but the process has taken its toll on my willingness to continue.
Of course, part of the problem may be that I’m near the end of a whole bunch of different things at the same time. At the end of spring quarter, I will finish my fourth associate’s degree along with my time at Sinclair. On the other hand, just a few months after I finish, I have the prospect of continuing my education at Wright State staring me in the face.
So, the question remains: how do I build up the stamina to make it through what is more than likely at least three more years of school including this one? Answering that question will be the defining event of my college experience.
I have to admit it: I am a perpetual student. The only thing keeping me from being a professional one is the fact no one’s paying me to do this.
Nevertheless, I love being in the classroom around other people who love to learn, especially in writing and art, and I expect that I will continue to be in classrooms as a student or as a teacher for the rest of my life.
Right now, my goals are pretty simple. I plan to finish my associate’s degree in Art at Sinclair Community College this spring, making it my fourth associate’s degree in three years. I will also start on my bachelor’s degree in English emphasizing creative writing with a minor in history at Wright State University this fall.
We’ll see what else comes up along the way.