The Reality of College


Victoria Gruen, Journalist

College. Everyone thinks about going. Most of us have been working towards that for a long time. Some of us are almost there.

Of course! What else would we do? Our entire lives, we’ve been told to work towards that goal. Improvement is a part of the foundation of the ideals of America, and we’re all expected to do better than our parents. That’s the American Dream. Naturally, if we go to college, we can get closer to that dream, we can get an education, and become someone.

That was true for the last century or so. But what about now?

If you are going to college to become a physician, engineer, or a job like that, the answer is obviously yes – you should go to college, and it’s totally worth it. But what about the average student, going to college for a Bachelor’s degree? Is it worth the cost?

Meet Aaron, who graduated from Penn State in 2003 with a Bachelor’s degree in letters, arts, and sciences, which is supposed to provide a broad education that introduces methods of analysis used in the liberal arts disciplines. He worked 20 hours a week and paid for every single cent of college. As soon as he graduated, he worked on paying off his debt as soon as possible. He did, and within 10 years was debt free. He said, “I did have a huge sense of accomplishment when I graduated… but in my situation, college didn’t really do anything for me. I don’t remember much of what I was taught and like most college graduates, I’m not doing anything even remotely close to the field I graduated it.”

Aaron’s story isn’t unique. Thousands of students everywhere are struggling with debt and finding a job.

Money, as always, plays a huge factor. CNBC states that “Students at public four-year institutions paid an average of $3,190 in tuition for the 1987-1988 school year, with prices adjusted to reflect 2017 dollars. Thirty years later, that average has risen to $9,970 for the 2017-2018 school year. That’s a 213 percent increase.”

However, money isn’t the only concern.

Once you’re out of college, over “40 percent of college graduates take positions out of school that don’t require a degree… and more than 1 in 5 college grads still aren’t working a degree-demanding job a decade after leaving school,” says CNBC.

As a result of those factors, student loan debt is increasing, and will continue to increase. Students who have such immense debt are less likely to buy a car, buy a house, get married, and have kids.

And what do these college educations accomplish? Not much, it seems. A study done in 2003 by the Department of Education states, “When the test was last administered, in 1992, 40 percent of the nation’s college graduates scored at the proficient level, meaning that they were able to read lengthy, complex English texts and draw complicated inferences. But on the 2003 test, only 31 percent of the graduates demonstrated those high-level skills.”

At Harvard, “students who receive honor grades in college-level physics courses are frequently unable to solve basic problems and questions encountered in a form slightly different from that on which they have been formally instructed and tested.”

The average GPAs of the students are not reflecting this failure. Instead, they’re getting higher. In 1983, the average grade overall was about 2.8. Now, it is 3.1, and even higher at private schools.

These colleges are barely teaching, yet they increase their fees. However, there are some alternatives.

When you apply for a job and you present your resume to the employer, yet you don’t have a degree, you have to show them that you are still capable of the job. Polls are increasingly showing that employers care less about your education and more about your experience. The Atlantic states that a recent study showed that “college reputation, GPA, and courses finished at the bottom of the list. At the top, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, were experiences outside of academics: internships, jobs, volunteering, and extracurriculars.”

If you go to college and enroll now, in three years you are going to still be in the classroom. However, if you go do a specific job that is not taught in college – for instance, an electrician – in those three years, you will have that amount of time and experience under your belt.

Aaron had some thoughts when asked what he would do if he was able to relive his college years. “If I could go back and redo things, I would have chosen to attend a two-year technical school or wait until I was sure of my career choice before starting college rather than spending thousands on useless classes and ultimately a useless degree just because that’s what I was told I should do.”

While going to college is the goal of many people, it might not be as worth it, because it is very expensive, it doesn’t provide a good education, and it does not guarantee you a good job.



Jones, Aaron. “Is College Worth The Expense? My Husband’s Story…” And Then We Saved, 2013,

Martin, Emmie. “Here’s How Much More Expensive It Is for You to Go to College than It Was for Your Parents.” CNBC, 29 Nov. 2017,

Nova, Annie. “Why Your First Job out of College Really, Really Matters.” CNBC, 26 June 2018,

Dillon, Sam. “Literacy Falls for Graduates From College, Testing Finds.” New York Times, 16 Dec. 2005,

Caplan, Bryan. “The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone.” The Atlantic, 1 Jan. 2018

Rojstaczer, Stuart. “Grade Inflation at American Colleges and Universities.” Grade Inflation, 28 Jan. 2003,

Thompson, Derek. “The Thing Employers Look For When Hiring Recent Graduates.” The Atlantic, 19 Aug. 2014,