Sylwia Urbanska

Professor Steven Alvarez

English 110

April 7th 2012

College Representations



“Don’t touch the cash pan – this money is for your college!”

“I’m not going to college!”

“ You bet you are!”

The puzzled expression on my 5 year old daughter’s face made me burst into laughter. What started as a joke however, turned into a deeper contemplation of my own values and how I plan to imprint them on her. As an aftermath of the innocent joke I had to rethink my attitude towards her future and what is the best approach to prepare her for a happy and successful adulthood. I grew up with the strong conviction that I have to graduate from University because this is what my parents expected from me. That I learned this conviction to be my perception more then a reality, hasn’t changed my acquired set of values and the fact that I did graduate with MA and I am yet again pursuing and plan to achieve higher educational degree in a new field. I have learned one lesson in life however that I plan to apply to my attitude towards my daughter: what is good for me might not be good for all. Is entering a college education especially right after high school good for everyone? Is it the only way to self realization and fulfillment? College education seems to be another battle field between the system’s expectations and individual needs. High school students are presented with vision of their future in which attending college is a mandatory step to a happy, fulfilling and wealthy life. High schools need their students to attend college because this is what determines their value. New York is proudly among the highest high school students entering college right after graduation (

A person is being downgraded here to a number making up statistical significance. Accepted to college? Way to go girl! Good job, boy! The questions about individual needs and financial abilities are being left out for later. Unfortunately the “later” comes soon enough and turns into a painful nightmare for too many.


The dream of higher education is in my view sold on the same principal as the American dream of the house ownership. Having a house equals happiness the same way as having college degree equals fulfilling and well paid job. The underlying lurking trick: enjoy now, pay later. The idea of student’s loans grew out of imprinted debt-driven American mentality. Students are being presented with opportunity of taking a loan to attend college that they otherwise could not afford to attend. The democratic equality does not stand ground to the outcomes: overwhelming debt above the ability to repay it with entry level jobs paying not much above the minimum wage. Young people take on responsibility without any experience to validate the decision. After all, why shouldn’t they believe the commission based paid loan officers that they will have no problems whatsoever to meet their financial obligations with college degree behind their belt? The idea here is the same that you hear in speeches of motivational real estate gurus: OPM. Do you know what OPM stands for? OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY. Get the loan, which is other people’s money, invest it and you will be able to pay it off with the profit you’ll earn from your investment with no problem. It has worked for few, but failed for too many to advertise it as a golden rule of riches. The outcome of some of these investments called higher education speaks for itself: 

“85% of graduate students move back with their parents” (College is the next bubble). “I am unexperienced for the jobs that I want and overqualified for the jobs that I need.” (Overeducated and unemployed) The situation calls for change. The same way real estate markets burst, so will the college lending just because the economical market has certain laws that cannot be ignored without grave consequences. Investments need to be aligned with the trends and backed by the foundational demand and supply rule in order to result in beneficial outcomes.  Thousands of students with heavy loans with no means to repay them are the liability without collateral and they are doomed to become the liability for the society. The process of granting such huge amounts of loans to young people as revealed in the interview conducted by Peter Shiff with a recent graduate student Kelli Space, is serving the needs of the colleges that are being paid and by means of the above loans being made affordable but harms everyone else involved. It has to be noted at this point that those loans by being government secured involves all citizens who pay taxes as they are the de facto co-signers of those loans. An 18 year old person who has not had any experience in any aspect of money matters like balancing bills against a paycheck for example, is being talked into believing that she/he can afford a private college and that this private college will secure entrance into high paid jobs and fulfilling career. Based on their knowledge and life experience, there is no way for them to evaluate the potential risks and if they in addition do not have educated parents to consult with, they will see no reason not to enter this highly unfair, quasi fraudulent agreement. 


The mindset of the youngster entering college is in addition not always fully prepared for the responsible experience of higher education. For many this transitional stage in which they enjoy full benefits of adulthood like lack of parental supervision, without its responsibilities, mainly bills is time to enjoy new relationships and explore new possibilities. The lack of self-discipline is the key to the failure for many.

No, I am not trying to indicate that all students take college that jokingly: “Beer, girls and parties- three things that we love about college” (Top 10 things that suck about college). But many of them do so to create an image as such. There might be some unfairness in life that we still carry consequences for our actions even if those stem from pure ignorance and lack of life experience. To treat college as a social event lasting for about 4 years might not be a bad idea if it doesn’t cost a fortune that will overshadow your life for the next 30 years or so. It is an expensive way to “try things out.” As unfair as it may be, college requires full responsibility in order to become a valuable experience with results worth the effort. “They [students] are accountable for themselves” (Tips for college freshmen). Lack of maturity and direction might become a costly luxury for those who can’t depend on support from a rich family. The democratic principle of equal opportunities shatters at the price tags that come with them.


At this point we have a picture of worthless education and lazy students. What is the value of education? Does the image of drunk students give justice to the whole population? If I don’t drink, study hard for high grades because I actually plan to pursue graduate school, take the assignments seriously and take on bonus projects, does it all make me an outsider? My experience is rather that I am the main streamline in QC. Most of my classmates that I have spoken to are ambitious and serious about their course work, they have certain future plans in their consideration and act accordingly. Party? I am not a teenager and not in early twenties, I have a family, two part-time jobs and am a full time student. I am not by all means an exception. Maybe this is the characteristic of a commuter college where people of all ages who feel the need for educational expansion meet: young, middle-aged and old. Many of those students share the same dream of a better future but to be attained by present actions not by miraculous future conditions that will be guaranteed upon showing the diploma. I see two main validations for higher education. First, there are careers that you cannot pursue without a degree like lawyer, doctor, psychologist to name a few. Second, you mature in a way that is hard, although not impossible, to obtain in other settings. It is less about learning facts as about learning about resources on the outside and own abilities on the inside.


The value of higher education tends to be dismissed as it has failed as a tool to wealth. It is not a tool to become wealthy. It has never been. Or rather, it has never meant to be. Historically, educated people were servants who by the means of their knowledge were providing services to the general public or to their emperors and were never compensated much beyond covering their basic needs and enjoying social recognition. The first group of scholars in fact were monks who by definition chose isolation from the profanum and materialistic world in general. Only in the past few decades our expectations towards what college education should provide for us have risen and in the process, its innate purpose of development of mankind seems to be lost. Few decades of successful lawyers and doctors created the dream of wealthy graduate professional. This dream has shattered against reality that except few percent of top earning doctors, lawyers and actors, the rest is struggling as always or perhaps even like never before with the debt on their shoulders.

As a rebellious response to the disappointment we are being fed with an image of a highly successful school’s drop-out. College is being presented as the time and money consuming hurdle to wealth and fame. Upon closer look however things are not as simple as they are being presented. Mark Zuckerberg might be the first example of a drop- out from Harvard to pursue his Facebook project. Few years and billions of dollars later however his choice of charity is Newark’s troubled school system.  Andre Agassi, another rebellious soul whose path to wealth and fame was the one less traveled has opened his own Academy. Steve Job’s wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, sits on the boards of Teach for America and the New Schools Venture Fund and Steve himself, presumably the most famous and richest school drop out wasn’t shying away from scholar experience albeit in less traditional form. One of the most famous inspirational speeches namely has been delivered by him at the commencement ceremony at no other but Stanford University.


Why people whose life’s choices are proof of college dismissal, support this institution after all? Somehow it seems that the timeless and universal value prevails against temporary economic crisis and politically lame system. It is human’s innate need for knowledge, development, progress that will always drive people to study, research and improve. The current educational system in America is evolving out of social needs and expectations and like all other systems is a process rather then static state that requires constant improvements and adjustments. The loan debt will be solved soon enough either by measures of precaution or forced by another economic downturn. People who aren’t suited for college level of intellectual challenge are most of the time gone sooner rather then later. The main purpose of educational system is to educate and promote specialists for the growth and well being of the society. Looking at the current speed of development in all areas of science, I think our educational system still manages to fulfill its purpose. How much better could it be? To perceive a gap between the reality and possibility is the most optimistic forecast for the future. After all, there is no strive for improvement without a vision.

Works Cited

 “Bill Maher: College is the next bubble.” youtube.  Cyborg527, Oct 22, 2011. Web. 4 Apr. 2012

“I Am Over-Educated and Unemployed.” youtube. UnemployedEducated, Oct 1, 2011. Web. 5 Apr. 2012.

NCHEMS Information Center. n.d. Web. 4 Apr. 2012.

“Peter Schiff exposes college scam – Interviews Kelli Space (1 of 2).” youtube. LeifEiriksson, Dec 6, 2010. Web. 4 Apr. 2012

“Ron Paul on the College Bubble.” youtube.  Cyborg527, Oct 23, 2011. Web. 4 Apr. 2012

“Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address.” youtube. StanfordUniversity, Mar 7, 2008. Web. 4 Apr. 2012

“The lies about College.” youtube.  Okletsjam1, Sep 4, 2010. Web. 4 Apr. 2012

“Tips for College Freshmen.” youtube. LifeBoundCarolCarter, Jan 30, 2008. Web. 4 Apr. 2012

” Top 10 Things That Suck About College.” youtube. ALwizzelTV, Sep 7, 2009. Web. 4 Apr. 2012

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Spam prevention powered by Akismet