Dollar for dollar, a college education at a four-year school can hardly be argued to be cost-effective. High school graduates who take a few “Heating & Cooling” vocational classes at a junior college could make upwards of $45,000 in their first year as an air conditioning repair person, as opposed to your typical liberal arts college grad, who are in increasing numbers going back to live with their parents the first year after graduation.
It is the learning, networking, and personal contacts made in college that are far more valuable than any direct dollar comparison, as well as the intangible rewards of learning self-discipline and self-teaching methods. College professors are guides, not teachers, in the sense they are there to shape a student’s engagement with the subject matter, not impart knowledge from above. A college student teaches him or herself, in the end. The professor, whether “good” or “bad”, is just there to jump-start the process.
A person who enters college or graduate school with the expectation of “getting what I paid for” in terms of dollars, is sure to be disappointed. The classes, the professors, even the dorms won’t seem to be worth the $30,000 or more a year. Some students even calculate what they are spending per class by dividing the cost of tuition by the classes they are taking, and then break it down to the minute – “the professor missed a class, I just wasted $200!” attitude.
College isn’t a restaurant meal, where you can send back an overdone or underdone professor, class, or dorm room and get one more to your taste. It is a community. You get back exactly what you put into it. Students who throw themselves into learning, into activities, into the academic and social campus life, are going to come out of college with a sense of fulfillment and with contacts in business, the music industry, publishing, or whichever industry they pursued in the course of their college career.
For example, a student who volunteers to book bands for campus events will begin building the contacts and resume to go into music management or public relations in a future career. That student will gain academic knowledge from business or music classes, but can put it into practice by actually negotiating to book real musicians and by organizing and publicizing events during his or her campus career.
Going to college is about starting life. A college student can open the door to industry contacts, work experience, and the background academic knowledge needed for his or her dream career – but dollar for dollar, the student is paying for the privilege to come into contact with those opportunities, to walk on that college quad, and to rub elbows with the industry giants of tomorrow. It’s not cost-effective, but it is a chance for a more personally rewarding future than repairing air conditioners for a living.