Ugly Truths – What is a college degree really worth?

phone-012014-230If you’re still in college or have just graduated you may not want to read this. Hell, you may not want to read this if you’re like me and graduated a few years ago. Because the short answer to my question is not much – usually.

College degrees certainly aren’t worth the tens of thousands of dollars people spend on them. Especially when there is no real goal or plan after graduation to pay back all of the student loans. Even if the degree is in a practical field the competition is so fierce for the few jobs to be had graduates need something beside the piece of paper with the college seal and a few signatures on it.

Of course I didn’t go the traditional academic route. College was never in my future as a kid so I never really worried about it. That is, until I moved out on my own, stumbled through a bunch of dead-end jobs, and realized I couldn’t live on minimum wage for the rest of my life.

So after much consideration – and desperation – I decided to go to my local community college. At 27. While working full-time and taking care of a family and a house. Long story short I found out that I loved going to school. I was good at it, especially after I got over all of my perfectionist’s anxiety.

So after I finished my Associate’s degree I went on to earn both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. It took 10 years, mostly because when I started I only took 2 classes at a time. There were definitely times when I wanted it to be over and thought of quitting or stopping, but all-in-all I enjoyed the experience.

The fact that I’m not still paying for it is probably the best part, because I didn’t land that mythical dream job. I’m not working for some Fortune 500 company making 6 figures. About 6 months ago I began questioning the worth of going at all – aside from money.

Because there were all kinds of different costs. Early mornings, late nights, missing out on different things because I had to study, I had to finish a paper, I had to work weird shifts to make the class schedule work.

Oh, and I became a condescending, pompous, arrogant bitch.

It wasn’t until this past year that certain truths about my past behavior surfaced. I did a pretty good job of masking my inner feelings. I hope. But when I really thought about it I realized I thought I was hot shit for a long time. I was the best thing to come along since sliced bread. The company where I worked couldn’t function without me.

(They’ve functioned just fine for the past year. Just like every other company I’ve ever left.)

And my former co-workers? Since I rarely keep in touch, I don’t know how they’re doing, but I would assume they’re fine. They’re probably better off now that I’m not there – less tension because I’m not pointing out all of what’s wrong with the company.

I know this sounds harsh, and maybe I’m exaggerating just a bit. It wasn’t like I went around all day, every day looking down my nose at people. Oh, no, it was way more subtle than that. That’s why it took almost 3 years for me to figure out that my problems with my employers wasn’t all them.

Arrogance and pride were tiny worms at first that borrowed their way in to my brain and grew and grew until I thought I was somehow better, smarter than everyone around me. Oh I said all the right things. Like I wanted to share my knowledge for the betterment of everyone. Like I wanted to be a team player. Like I was there to support my co-workers and our customers.

But deep down I laughed at everyone. I judged and ridiculed. I thought my college education made me better than everyone else.

You know that saying, pride comes before a fall. Yeah, well, I fell – hard. And those college degrees didn’t offer much cushion when I landed. If anything they made me question the last 10 years of my life – professionally anyway. Why had I let ambition cloud my world view? Why did nothing ever seem good enough? Why did I bother to study and learn if I was just going to use that knowledge to beat other people down on my way to wherever?

Maybe I’m the only one who’s ever thought this way. Maybe, but I don’t think so. Otherwise we wouldn’t have the social media culture that we do today. People wouldn’t feel so free to judge and criticize and ridicule.

So what is a college degree really worth? I guess that’s up to each one of us, but we would all do well to remember that worth and value are about much more than money. And all the education in the world won’t change the fact that we’re all still imperfect humans struggling with our journeys.

Here’s a question for you to help keep things in perspective. And if any of you know the answer please feel free to share. I think the answer would be enlightening.

How many of this country’s homeless population have college degrees?


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