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The cost of higher education


It seems that a college degree is almost necessary for our generation.

Once upon a time, it was possible for someone to actually work their way to the top of their field based on, well, their work. These days, most people would not even be considered for any sort of management position with a company unless they possess that magic piece of paper stating that they have earned a college degree.

For people who learn trades like cosmetology, options exist. They can skip the classroom process altogether by apprenticing with a professional in their chosen field.

I’m glad that doctors, for example, have to go to college before they can begin practicing. But for those of us in certain other fields, college is a hassle. It’s both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I tell myself, “I’ve made it this far. Isn’t some college enough? How much difference is that degree going to make?”

Now, you can probably blame some of that on senioritis. But before you just write me off completely, let me tell you what higher education has both given me and has cost me.

When I graduated from high school at age seventeen, I didn’t even want to go to college. I enjoyed writing and drawing, and I just wanted to spend the rest of my life writing and drawing. That lasted one semester before my mom insisted that I go to school. Thanks to her, I’m not a starving artist now.

I didn’t really know what I wanted to study in college, but I enrolled in our local community college and began taking my core classes. When I transferred to JSU, I decided that I wanted to major in Communications. I figured if I was a journalist, I could make a living from writing. I would also be working on something new every day, so I wouldn’t get bored with my job.

That turned out to be the best decision I’ve made in my adult life so far. Less than one year after transferring to JSU, I became Editor-in-Chief of The Chanticleer. I’ve also been a co-host on two different radio shows on WLJS, and spent one semester disc jockeying with one of my friends during her rotation shift.

But the best opportunity that being involved in the Communication Department has given me is a job. Ever since last summer, I’ve been spending my nights working the copy desk at The Anniston Star. I have also had the opportunity to read along with the Metro Editor and help edit stories, as well as write a couple of feature stories for the paper and for Healthy Living magazine. My co-workers are some of my best friends, and I have learned so much more at my job than I ever have in a classroom.

But there’s a catch: I cannot keep the job that I love so much, the job that’s in my field, if I want my degree.

I have to complete an internship over the summer before I can officially graduate, but I can’t do what I’m doing now and get internship
credit. I have spent the past week brainstorming with my editors and trying to find a way to make it work. But rules are rules.

For at least the next month, I will be in limbo. As a friend of mine put it, “It’s almost like you’re being punished for being one step ahead of the game.”

And that, my friends, is the true cost of higher education: leaving a job in my chosen field to satisfy the requirements of the school system, all for that precious piece of paper.

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