An undeniably controversial and hazy discussion in society, very heavily in the United States, is discourse surrounding the cost of college. In an ideal world the gift of knowledge, the resources, and networking opportunities that come along with a formal higher education would be free and made available to everyone. However, due to increased demand for a bachelor's degree when entering the professional sector and a seemingly endless flood of trade jobs and essential worker positions needing to be filled, American society has become one with a distinct divide between those who are able to attend college and those who either opt to or are required to explore other facets of the workforce upon completing high school.
It is essentially supply and demand that has caused the price of an education to rise so high in the United States; it has become more apparent than ever that the ties of the capitalist machine are loyal to those whose family has some skin in the game. The system is inclined towards those individuals in demand for the limited supply of professional sector jobs that require a degree, and soullessly unconcerned with the “pawns;” a harsh reality of the societal gap that has been created by these fundamentally systemic institutions that have been in place long before any current or future college student.
In terms of our home state, Colorado Mesa University (CMU) is certainly on the less expensive side of major state schools to be found here, though it is still certainly not a small price to pay to receive one’s education here. In-state tuition at CMU for this 2023-2024 school year is sitting at about $9,297 with a significant jump to $23,019 for out-of-state students. It is also worth mentioning that CMU offers a wide range of scholarship opportunities for accomplishments throughout different departments and majors, as well as athletic scholarships, first generation student scholarships, and opportunities from a variety of other outside institutions who will provide scholarships for students throughout the year.
Taking a look at some other schools in Colorado, CSU Fort Collins, a major establishment with over 30,000 students, has their in-state tuition set to $12,874 and their out-of-state tuition set to $32,724. This is quite a bit higher than the current rates for CMU, however tuition has been rising in cost every year. Just this past year CMU moved from the second to the third most affordable college in Colorado after tuition costs surpassed the University of Northern Colorado’s.
As is the custom of an opinion piece, I will take a step back from my musings on capitalism and the numeric dredge of tuition comparisons and let my opinion take the reigns.
I do believe that college has become overpriced and overemphasized in our society, yet I believe that the emphasis is the real problem at hand. With the way that college is treated by a huge majority of attendees, there is no real set in stone “future of gold” to be had upon their reception of the idealized college diploma. The emphasis is the problem because, contrary to popular belief, there are tons of opportunities for paying work that one can develop a deep passion for without selling four years of their time to a higher learning establishment.
There are plenty of people who, had they not ever gotten their degree, would still have ended up in the field they inhabit upon their graduation feeling more inspired and confident than any of the content within their major ever instilled in them. Whether it’s high school counselors or parents, the youth are convinced from a fairly young age that college is a surefire way to secure a comfortable job once they finish their scholastic responsibilities. This generation-wide idea of emphasizing college has bled into the professional world with shockingly harmful results. A massive amount of professional level jobs in 2023 require a four-year degree that did not require one 30 years ago. The supply and demand problem that skyrocketed the price of higher education in the United States was created by executives and owners who didn’t go to college themselves, requiring their subordinates and interns to be college grads. In 2023, nothing is surefire, in fact, it has never seemed more futile and “dog-eat-dog” in the real world than it is right now. I won’t argue for or against attending college versus trade school or becoming a real estate agent and on and on and on, because that is not the point of this piece.
The situation, as I see it, is quite simply that passion and discipline are going to take an individual in modern-day America much further than any piece of paper signifying academic accomplishment. Yes, the diploma is a strobe light dancing across one’s resume screaming, “This guy knows how to make a deadline! This guy has used Excel!” However, in my, thus-far, brief experience in the professional world, it has become quite apparent that nobody quite knows what they are doing, and as a result, with the right amount of finesse and the right amount of networking, I think it is very possible to find an occupation rife with success regardless of the extent of one’s education.
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