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Attending College: A Matter of Relativity, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Introduction

An issue seeming to gain in momentum, due to both the expanded opportunities created by globalization and the recent, and devastating, recession, is the actual value of a college education.  More the the point, debate rages within households and the society at large as to whether there are essentially valid reasons for young people to take this path.  On one level, more pragmatic concerns argue that only a college degree can enable a desirable standard of living.  On another, it is argued that the sheer number of college graduates today renders such an advantage moot; as so many have degrees, the commercial value lessens.  Added to this are debates as to the quality of the education itself, which relate to student aptitude today as actually able to attain higher degrees of learning, the inherent worth of such learning, and the schools’ ability to provide it.  What emerges from all of this controversy is an inescapable reality, if one not neatly offering a universal answer. Given the immense range of factors going into determining the true value of a college education, the rightness or wrongness of the decision to attend must arise from the circumstances of each young person facing the dilemma.

Refutation

It may be convincingly argued that, with nothing more than pragmatic considerations in view, there can be no defense of choice or circumstances as dictating the college education.  Simply, the evidence supporting that a degree makes a significant difference in earnings is too extensive:

“Data covering the last four decades show that adults who have degrees…have far higher family incomes than do adults who have only a high school degree” (Haskins, Holzer, & Lerman  1).  If education is pursued for reasons other than material gain, these exist apart from this single factor and, as earning more is a universally desirable aim, the argument is irrefutable.  To this may be added the likely potentials of other benefits beyond the material.  College is well-known as an environment in which social skills and relationships are promoted and developed, as the young person is allowed a transition process from adolescent to adulthood.  There is as well the basic element of advanced education as providing exactly that, in terms of expanded learning.  Advanced intellectual capacity, it may be safely asserted, helps anyone move through life, and this is propounded as an inherently sound rationale for attending college, financial gains aside (Miller  628).   All these components acknowledged, then, there can be no rational weight attached to college as an individual choice dictated by circumstances.  The advantages clearly indicate that it is as important to development and success as any earlier phase of education.

Response

The very omnipresence of higher incomes as associated with attending college actually diffuses the value of the assertion.  More exactly, as so many people today attain their jobs with the college degree in hand, the field itself is no longer subject to this type of analysis.  Then, as the recent recession demonstrated, the college degree is no anchor in a world wherein higher-level jobs are scarce or in jeopardy.  In the arena of income, moreover, new variables are shifting the parameters of automatic success attached to the degree, and technology is an enormous factor in this.  While it is noted, for example, that the four fastest-growing occupations require some college, the next fastest-growing markets demand none, and these occupations cover a vast range in all health care operations.  Added to this are computer programming and maintenance careers, which also do not rely on college, but on technical training (McMahon 77).  Consequently, the varying state of the economy and the changes occurring in multiple fields of employment support that commercial gain, if undeniably enabled through college in many circumstances, is by no means a definitive reason for attending.  Then, there is the matter of work ethic and personal satisfaction, which are identified as largely independent of higher learning attainment (Woodside, Gibbons, Davison, Hannon, & Sweeney 13).  All of this goes to the importance of determining individual abilities, ambitions, and inclinations as pivotal in deciding on college.

Apart from economic considerations, virtually every aspect of the college experience supports an approach based, not on inevitable attendance, but on the suitability of the college to the individual’s life.  It is true, certainly, that many colleges provide young people with growth opportunities, both within and external to learning.  It has been established through research that a student’s academic attainment is directly related to how influential the school’s faculty is, and how that faculty actively motivates the student (Komarraju, Musulkin, & Bhattacharva  339).  Clearly, this can have positive outcomes, but it may just as easily render the college years a handicap to the student.  There is a “built-in” corollary; namely, lack of support from a faculty may have a significantly adverse effect on students, and render the college years a handicap in all future attainment.  That colleges exist to promote education an growth does not, unfortunately, assure a level of quality in instruction or faculty character, and it is also increasingly noted that how socialization occurs within the school greatly affects student achievement  (Pascarella  64).  Put another way, it seems more reasonable that, given the range of quality and experience within even one college’s environment, only students fully motivated to learn are equipped to enter the arena at all.

Lastly, and going very much to why each student’s individual circumstances should decide the college issue, there is some debate over the self-fulfilling nature of the more successful college experience.  Studies have indicated that, in most campuses, student achievement is inextricably linked to what the students bring to the college in the first place, in terms of greater aptitude.  This has translated to sets of expectations which may seriously impede the student requiring greater instruction: “Educators’ instincts have, for the most part, been that high-ability students benefit more from education than do the students who struggle” (Hout  391).  Then, educators and students typically hold differing perceptions as to what constitutes motivation (Ramirez  8).

In essence, then, as the arena of college itself is so subject to variables going to what may be anticipated within it, it is all the more critical that each student assess their own needs, abilities, and ambitions before entering into it.

Conclusion

It is by no means intended here to dissuade the high school student from pursuing college.  A wide range of valid reasons support such a choice, if only in terms of the obvious benefits of acquiring greater knowledge and being, generally speaking, better equipped for career success.  At the same time, other factors present a less thoroughly optimistic picture, and what all scenarios have in common is the inescapable element of the success in college as being created by the student.  College is a place of opportunity, and opportunity is only as valuable as that which is made of it.  Given the vast range of factors going into determining the true value of a college education, then, the decision to attend college must arise from the circumstances of each young person facing the dilemma.

Works Cited

Haskins, R., Holzer, A., & Lermin, R.  Promoting Economic Mobility by Increasing Postsecondary Education. Washington: The Urban Institute, 2009.  Web.  Retrieved from http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?id=1001280&RSSFeed=UI_Economy/Taxes.xml

Hout, M.  “Social and Economic Returns to College Education in the United States.”  Annual Review of Sociology 38  (2012): 379-400.  Web. Retrieved from http://www.aequalis.cl/wp-content/uploads/Hout-ARSeduc-2012.pdf

Komarraju, M., Musulkin, S., & Bhattacharva, G.  “Role of Student–Faculty Interactions in Developing College Students’ Academic Self-Concept, Motivation, and Achievement.” Journal of College Student Development  51.3 (2010): 332-342.  Web. Retrieved from http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/csd/summary/v051/51.3.komarraju.html

McMahon, W. W.  Higher Learning, Greater Good The Private and Social Benefits of Higher Education.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.  Print.

Miller, M. A.  “The Privileges of Parents.” Kirszner, L. G., & Mandell, S. R. (Eds.) Practical Argument: A Text and Anthology.  Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, 2011.  Print. 628-630.

Pascarella, E.  “Students’ Affective Development within the College Environment.” Journal of Higher Education  56.6 (1985): 640-663.  Web.  Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1981072?uid=3739616&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21101387214961

Ramirez, S. J.  “Student Engagement in Community College Developmental Education Courses: Differences in Perceptions of Students and Faculty.”  Capella University, 2008.  Web. Retrieved from https://library.villanova.edu/Find/Summon/Record?d=proquest_dll_1559850281

Woodside, M., Gibbons, M. M., Davison, J.,  Hannon, C., & Sweeney, J. R.  “Work and Career Experiences of Men from Families without College Experience.”  The Qualitative Report 17 (2012): 1-16.  Web. Retrieved from http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR17/woodside.pdf

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