Thoughts on Education

In reading this article at the NY Times about the differences between those who stay and complete college and those who don’t, I was reminded of my own experience (and, in fact, continuing experience) with the educational system. Low-income students and students of families who did not graduate from college – unsurprisingly – still have a more difficult time getting to college and sticking with it to get the degree.

There’s really no question as to why. If you’ve got a family who expects you’ll go to college, who all graduated from college and – miracle of miracles – who will pay for it if you go, you’ve got a big social and financial system behind you urging you on. Shit, I had a family who would have disowned me if I didn’t get a degree, but I sure as hell contemplated *not* completing my undergraduate degree a couple of times.


Cause I’m now 30K in debt, and making only 40K a year as a result. In fact, the only reason I even considered graduate school at all was because a collective of relatives agreed to help me pay tuition costs. I still worked for my plane ticket and the money to pay my bills before I headed overseas, but at the end of graduate school, at least my debt rack-up remained the same.

What kept me going when I was 19/20 wasn’t so much my love of education (though I certainly have a love learning), it was family pressure to finish. My parents pounded me and my brother and sister over the head about the importance of a college education. My mother had waited to go back to school until she had kids – and she said it was one of the stupidest things she’d done, to try and go to work, go to school, and raise kids, and she didn’t recommend that route. My dad finished a couple of semesters of college courses, but it became abundantly clear when he went back on the job market that nobody was hiring anybody without a college degree anymore, and he fought tooth and nail to get a job that paid the bills, even with over twenty years of restaurant experience, five years of that at the VP level.

The job market isn’t a fun place.

I found out the same thing here in Chicago when I tried to get a job, and ended up working for $11 an hour as a temp before this position became permanent. I was so desperate to work that I was ready to apply at Starbuck’s – with a Master’s Degree.

How fucked up is that?

When it comes to education, for me, it’s now all about the money. Where will the money come from? How many more student loan people are going to call me about late payments? How much more financial harrassment will I endure to get another degree, to broaden my horizons, expand my skill base?

My answer is: a lot.

The reason I have that answer is because I’ve grown up in a family that takes great pride in education, that knows it’s worth, and who have raised me with those same values.

For better or worse, I keep going.

It’s the money that’s a bitch.

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