As I look around my group of friends and former classmates from university, I begin to see a common trend - we are all stuck. Stuck right where we are. Comparison to previous generations, we "should" be at the point of starting our lives, getting married, having kids, and having a career instead of a job. However, many of us are still living at home, working at places we wouldn't like to call a career, and waiting for something, anything, to come up. We are not able to apply our post-secondary knowledge to any relevant work experience. This is the same knowledge that "promised" us a great career, the knowledge that "assured" we would have a beaming future, and the knowledge that is drilling a hole into our bank accounts faster than they are extracting oil.
It is a fact that current costs of pursuing post-secondary studies is higher today than it was even a decade ago. Many students are suffering with loan repayment after they graduate, sinking deeper and deeper into debt as the years go on. And that debt has been increasing drastically throughout the years. The current educational system has become more of a lucrative business that is only selling to the highest bidder. Costs of anything related to higher education seems to skyrocket. Textbook prices are disgustingly high, and newer editions keep spewing out of the printers that make re-selling old textbooks nearly impossible. Cafeteria "food" makes many student want to throw-up at the sight, and is somehow more expensive than fancy restaurants. Higher than needed parking passes and parking problems make you want to just take the bus (even if it takes two hours to get to school). And don't even get me started on the companies - cell phone, student credit card, and even fake jewelry companies - that come on campus trying to promote and sell their products, only to take more money from the already poor students. My common saying to these harassers during my undergrad and grad studies was "sorry I'm a student, and I'm poor".
And while enrollment is so high, job availability is far too low. We are only taught to consume and never question. Education has changed to be a product of consumption and it is being advertised to us that we must "consume" this product for our better good. It is crazy at the number of times I see commercials during a half-hour TV show advertising a local college or university, with that same common theme - a person stuck in the job they hate, went to school, got a degree and *bam* got that amazing job they were searching for their whole lives. Perfect! While this does happen, I question at what percent does it happen and what kind of job. The career that they dug themselves into debt to go to school, or the overworked and underpaid job that they have to stick to in order to avoid going bankrupt. These are those unanswered questions they - the corporation-minded universities - don't tell you about. But unfortunately, they cannot tell you all this.
I know far too many who completed teacher's college in hopes of becoming a teacher soon after graduating, but resort to minimum wage, part-time jobs because of the high competition for jobs. I have friends who have resorted to going back to school to try for another degree after only being able to find temporary or temp-agency jobs with their current degrees. I also know of many, many who are stuck working contract job after contract job, with no benefits and no stability or assurance of what is to come after the contract is complete. I am one of those people. I am currently in a contract job that promises me two months. I just came out of a five week contract job, and before that a three year contract job that started off as a three-month contract and only kept getting extended by a couple months at a time. And contract jobs are becoming the new trend in Canada and the US - short-term often underpaid positions with no benefits. And, at least in Ontario, your employment can terminate before the end of your contract. That is the sad reality of the current employment system.
Having said all that, I still think having a post-secondary education is of utmost importance. While I have outlined what many people might be feeling once they experience the real world of work, I would never change the choices that I have made before ever entering university. We learn something more valuable than what is learned between those four walls of a classroom: the freedom to choose, the ability to think, and the understanding to know right from wrong. Education is ultimate freedom for yourself, your family and your future.