Time to Hit the Books…Literally

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Madison Dalton, Staff Writer

In the words of Will Hunting from the movie Good Will Hunting, “[You’re just upset because] you dropped a hundred and fifty grand a year on an […] education you coulda got for a dollar fifty in late fees at the public library.”

Yet more enticing than the monetary issue presented in this clever line from the film is the fact that it focuses on a concept that our society has grotesquely undervalued over the past few decades—the value of true knowledge.

A degree may be important, but when push comes to shove, it is just a slip of paper.  What truly has value is what is in one’s head, and there is no reason to believe that a professor’s spoken word is any more valuable that the same ideas he has entombed in his book, which sits on the shelf of any local library.  Therefore, in analyzing the costs of college, we must place the value of knowledge and real-life experience above that of market gains.

As the economy plummets and the job market becomes saturated, the prospect of spending thousands of dollars for the sake of getting a slip of paper with your name on it is looking less and less enticing.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for November was 8.6 percent.  In other words, approximately one in ten students graduating from college will be unable to find a job.  It is clear that the long-held paradigm, which states that going to college guarantees success, no longer applies to our modern times. That being said, we simply cannot try to take an old-fashioned approach to a current problem.  The only facet that can get us through our economic freeze is new ideas, and those don’t come from the idioms and institutions that have existed for decades.

Additionally, job markets can change—and typically do— in the four years or more that a student spends in college.  Just because a certain market may have been prosperous at the time of one’s entrance into college, does not mean that it will still be a viable option when that person graduates.  Therefore, the degree that the individual put so much time and money into could be rendered worthless.

To make matters worse, most of these college graduates will be left with a hefty amount of college debt. According to College Board, the cost of a public four-year college in 2011-2012 averaged $8,244 for in-state students and $12,526 for out-of-state students.  Keep in mind that these numbers are only for one year and do not include private universities.  That is simply too much to spend when you have a one in ten chance of being left jobless despite your degree.

So what it comes down to is this, do we really go to college to learn, or is it simply for the sake of ‘getting the degree’?  Markets can shift and leave you jobless, but true knowledge lasts a lifetime.  From Bill Gates to Henry Ford toSteven Spielberg, it becomes evident that Will Hunting’s motto of hitting the public library really does work, and is perhaps even more effective—and definitely cheaper—than getting a degree from a well-known university.