The student news site of Benilde-St. Margaret's School in St. Louis Park, MN

Knight Errant

The student news site of Benilde-St. Margaret's School in St. Louis Park, MN

Knight Errant

The student news site of Benilde-St. Margaret's School in St. Louis Park, MN

Knight Errant

The college problem; Corruption in higher education

Kat Mulgrew
Students struggle with college applications.

In nature, younglings usually start their life with a challenge, testing their ability to survive. Chicks must prove they are strong enough to break out of their shells. Baby turtles waddle to the sea as hungry birds circle above. And in the United States, teens compete for a spot at the best colleges. But college isn’t supposed to be about survival, and as students across the nation struggle with FAFSA forms and beef up their applications with after-school clubs, the real purpose of a college education continues to fade away.

College, as my parents and teachers would tell you, is supposed to be about learning and exploring what interests you. Getting into a quality college is the reward all good boys and girls get for doing their homework, letting them pursue jobs as doctors and lawyers. Higher education fills young minds and prepares them to join the workforce to be meaningful members of society. At least, that’s what it’s supposed to do. Unfortunately, we seem to have lost the plot along the way.

To start, the scholarly ideal of college is nowhere to be found. As the number of people getting college degrees has crescendoed, from 25.7% in 1980 to 41.2% in 2016, a college degree has become as essential as a high school diploma. Pursuing higher education is no longer simply an option available to those who want more advanced careers. Instead, it’s an entry-level requirement for most industries. Gone are the days when a degree could guarantee you access to a cushy job and home ownership by 30.

The corruption of high education doesn’t stop with the degradation of its value. College is not so much a reward for good students as it is a test of your ability to play the game. The question of what it takes to get into a top university remains unanswered, as even the most outstanding students get rejected amidst record-low admittance rates and a surplus of excellence. All the hard work and good grades get you nowadays is a raffle ticket for the college lottery.

It’s clear that the American higher education system is broken. The question now has to be how we can fix the problem, so that future generations can be free of the stress and pressure our college system generates.

A potential solution is increasing the access young people have to courses that aren’t trying to get them into college. Going to college shouldn’t be the only option for students, and schools should implement more programs to teach kids skills they can use to join the workforce after high school. Alternatives to college, like trade schools, are often looked down on, despite the competitive wages and benefits skilled laborers get. At the same time, schools should focus on ensuring students are learning to help improve the value of a high school diploma.

The standard of high school education is declining, with thousands of students falling behind grade-level standards. In Oregon, high school students don’t have to show proficiency in reading or math to graduate, a distressing example of this trend. Raising the bar for high school education should be a top priority, with increased funding and support for schools across the country. This action will mean that people can get access to quality jobs without necessarily needing a college degree.

Education isn’t the only thing that needs to change. Employers will also need to change their hiring practices if fewer people plan to pursue college. Many companies are struggling to find qualified employees. Making sure students get a better high school education and providing people with more opportunities can help change this. A college diploma shouldn’t be a necessity to get an entry-level job, and our job market needs to reflect that.

Our higher education system is broken. A college degree has become a requirement for many jobs that don’t need them, and the quality of education students receive has been on a rapid decline. To fix this, we need to increase the quality of education in the US, make alternatives like trade schools more common, and change hiring practices. College isn’t supposed to test students’ ability to survive or cheat the system. It’s supposed to provide opportunities for individuals who want to enter fields that require more education or wish to continue studying a topic, and it should never have become a requirement.

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