Opinions: Out of pocket or Out of luck

Austin W Belet, Opinions Editor

College has become necessary in our society to be able to work in fields we want to work in. Want to be a chemist? Get a degree. Want to be a journalist? Get a degree. Want to work in politics? A degree will get you where you want to go. 

Now that the deadline has passed, I feel like it’s a good time to talk about paying for school without inducing a crippling amount of anxiety for students. 

Degrees can symbol to employers that we have a certain threshold of knowledge that makes one, at the very least, basically qualified to fulfill a position. This piece of paper says “I have studied this particular subject and those that help to influence it enough to say that I am a subject matter expert in this thing.”

In a conversation with my father the other day, we discussed the hiring practices of business owners. My father owns a carpentry business as it were and claimed very quickly he wants people with experience. I began to discuss with him about the value of a bachelors and I theorized a circumstance where someone had a degree in woodworking applying to his business. He plainly stated that the experience in the craft mattered more than the degree, but if he had someone with both he would prefer that candidate.

It used to be that apprenticeships and trade schools were a valid and widely accepted route to go down for employment, in a more modern context whereupon we depend on more modern problems we find that this isn’t as true as it once was. 

We absolutely need the trades, from electronics tech’s to plumbers we need people who are able and willing to assist in all of these aspects, but we also must acknowledge the evolving world we exist in. Technology is changing and our trades and apprenticeships must change with it. 

At the forefront of these changes are those of us who are chasing these degrees that some of us don’t even want to get. We are doggedly chasing a distinction that costs us thousands of dollars in tuition, books, lodging, and parking permits. According to UNF itself, the cost of attendance for an instate student per year is approximately $17,440 a year- that number jumps to $31,844 for out of state students. 

The current minimum wage here in Florida is $8.46, so once you factor that into a yearly earned income at 40 hours a week you end up with a yearly pay of $16,243.20.

And UNF is one of the more affordable universities. Universities such as FSU jump to $18,592 for their instate freshman. 

What does this say about our university system when not even the minimum wage covers the yearly cost of tuition? This is neglecting outside costs of gas, insurance, car costs, cell phone bills, or other day-to-day costs. 

Our system relies on grants, scholarships, parental income, and predatory loans to be able to pay us. We have built an educational system where we depend on the generosity of outside parties to help a singular individual rather than a whole group of people. 

I fell prey to this system last fall myself. 

I had tried to enroll in several online classes last fall, going so far as to contact a professor directly to ask for a spot in their class, only to have been dropped from all of it for an inability to pay for my classes. I couldn’t file my FAFSA as my parents had to file extensions for their taxes, so it was either out of pocket or out of luck.

We build this institution as a method to help construct a better future, educating our next generation to be able to create innovation and develop a brighter future. Instead, we doom our students to decades of debt and force them to take jobs for the money over the prospect of the job. 

Educational reform needs to take place; not just in the method of creating a more affordable educational system, but we also need to expand the ability for degree seeking students to be able to find apprenticeships – especially this that help to take care of the costs of college – and exposing people to the opportunity of trade schools. We should also be trying to expand what we consider to be trades; expand the word to mean things like paralegal careers, secretarial positions, IT technicians, and other jobs that benefit from some training. 

We have built a culture that cultivates a “work to live” perspective, can you imagine how much more could be done if we lived to work? I don’t mean that in the slave-driving type of way, but imagine if everyone that existed enjoyed what they did. Imagine that we had people researching the projects they want to research, building the things they want to build, and enjoying the craft they honed in on. 

I have worked jobs that I feel depleted in, it drains you. It pulls from the very being of someone to be forced to do a job simply to enjoy the days you don’t have to be there.

We are given one life, doesn’t it make more sense that we enjoy as much of it as we possibly can? 

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