Dickson: To go to college or not to go to college – that is the question

May 9, 2024, 8:00 AM | Updated: May 15, 2024, 11:04 am

Going to college has benefits and drawbacks. It's deciding for yourself that matters....

Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News

College has been getting a lot of bad press lately. Police are sent in to break up encampments of protestors all over the country. Then there is the story that Gen Z is ditching it for trade school.

There is no doubt that today’s high school graduates saw some of their older siblings and parents take on crushing debt to go to university. That would make anybody pause.

“Just because college isn’t worth it for everybody doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it for some,” said Christine Fairbanks, education policy fellow at the Sutherland Institute. “That is the question — not is college worth it generally, but is college worth it for you? That’s a question people have to answer for themselves. There still are economic, civic, health benefits long term for people that get a college degree.”

The pros of going to college

You’ve heard the statistics. On average, people with a degree will earn $17,500 more per year than those with a high school diploma. That is something to consider, but that’s not the main reason why I believe it is worth the investment of time and treasure.

Related: Gail Miller tells USU graduates to ‘lead with love’

The freedoms we enjoy in the United States come with what I see as a sacred responsibility. That duty is to be an educated citizenry. Our democracy doesn’t work if we don’t all learn as much as we can about a variety of topics — from history to languages, science to art.

We have the burden and the privilege of being life-long learners in this country. That certainly doesn’t require formal secondary education, but it doesn’t hurt.

“I was not a big history student, but as I have aged, I have a great respect for history,” said Lisa Walker, certified athletic trainer and teacher at Springville High School. “I wish I had paid more attention then. We need to learn from the past.”

“I think what some people don’t like about college is the well-roundedness of it,” Walker said. “They want to focus on what they like and what they want to do. Why do I have to learn all that other stuff that doesn’t mean anything to me? I think as you get older, there is an appreciation for all that other stuff. There is wisdom in having to learn it.”

It isn’t for everyone

I have five children: One college graduate, one with some college, one in college now and two who will not go. Raising these extraordinary humans has taught me and humbled me so much. My parents drilled it into me that I had to go to college. They taught me that paying for your children’s education is your duty as a parent.

Related: ‘Don’t listen to the nos’ UVU commencement speaker tells students

I took that to heart, perhaps too much with my older kids. I likely pushed them more in that direction than I should have. I understand now that college is not for everyone, but for those who want to go, there are enormous rewards.

“I am the first college graduate in my family on either side,” Walker shared. “I come from a long line of the trades. I wouldn’t trade my college degree for anything. My family was extremely proud of me to go through and finish college. I work at a high school. I think there are so many benefits to college, but I don’t think it’s for everyone.”

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Dickson: To go to college or not to go to college – that is the question