Real Costs of Striving For "Higher"

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Today I am going to pour out my heart into what I strongly think is happening to many attending or completing post-secondary studies and are born in the 80s and beyond. While some of you might not be experiencing it, which is great; others might happily agree with me, having more to add to it. And that is fine - we all have opinions and have all gone through different experiences. I am sharing my experiences and what I have been seeing become more of a norm recently.

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.
"Education is the most powerful" quote by Nelson Mandela


  1. This is such a good post! It's crazy that we are kind of stuck in a rut when everyone is always telling us that an education is so important. I know that getting an education has helped in some areas of my life but in actually applying it to something I want to do has been frustrating because I don't have experience. My dilemma is how am I supposed to gain experience if not given the chance? Oh well! We will all keep going I guess.

    1. YES! Exactly! That is what frustrates me the most too...and don't get me started on the whole "overqualified" comments either, haha!

  2. Great post :)

    Education is important because the job market is so competitive now. But even education doesn't guarantee you a good job... it's almost as if it's based on a little luck and a LOT of determination. But I agree, it did teach us some useful things... Still a scam for the most part when you look at the industry and how much profit they're making out of us.

    1. Thanks!
      And yes true regarding the needs of education, which is why I mentioned it at the end (although might be hypocritical than from the rest of the post!) :)

  3. Many of my friends have children that are $125,000 in debt from college loans. That is the maximum amount allowed!!! They had to come up with the rest of the money by mortgaging their homes! It is insane. One of those children is making $30,00/year as a teacher. How does that even make sense? It is a business and it has gotten completely out of hand. Most of my friends have never found a job that relates to their degree. It's sad that you spend that much money following your dream, only to be told that your degree is useless :( I do not know what the answer is, but I wish someone would come up with a plan to fix it!


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