Do you value something if it’s free? I was listening to the radio and the DJ was discussing college students protesting for free college tuition and she asked the question “do you value free?” It’s been stuck in my head ever since. Then I thought of what is free – air, water (not really free anymore unless it rains). Then I thought of air and water again and collectively, as the human race, we haven’t valued them much. I realize I am painting with a broad brush but look how we have f*cked up the air and water. Do we value free? I’m not so sure.
Then I reflected on my education….graduate cum laude from the school of hard knocks. I did actually graduate from college with a B.A. but I didn’t take the usual path. I grew up in a pretty messed up family and I missed a year of high school when I was a sophomore. I went back to a different school and finished my sophomore year. I got about half way through my junior year when I decided to pull the plug on high school. It just didn’t work for me and I felt like I was wasting my time….so I quit.
I took the GED as soon as I could and then registered for community college. I had to take a math class over the summer but that was it. I started full time in the fall and my grades were good, honor roll good. I left high school a year and a half early and had no problem jumping into full time community college. What does that say for a mid 80’s high school education in central New Jersey? I’d like to say that I am of superior intelligence but…eh, well, nope, not so much.
The big difference was that I had to pay for college so I was serious about it. Unlike high school where it didn’t really matter because this girl was not vying for the ivies or even a state college. You see we were broke and I wasn’t a star athlete or an academic genius so I knew I had to pay my way. I did get a few Pell Grants to get me started but that didn’t cover everything. So I worked to cover the rest including living expenses. I had been paying my share of rent, food and clothes since I was 15 so it wasn’t a new concept.
It probably took me 4 years to get my Associates Degree. Work came before school because it needed to in order to survive. After I graduated I took a couple years to just focus on work. I had always been a good worker wherever I was and I was getting consistent promotions at work. Eventually though I saw a dead end without a baccalaureate so I started to chip away at one. The companies I worked for offered some tuition reimbursement which helped. The rest I paid for one class at a time.
Was it easy, no I busted my ass. Was it worth it, definitely. I eventually finished my B.A. and got an even better job. Here’s the best part, no student loans. When I was done my education didn’t haunt me like some heinous ex reminding me of the good times in college. No I was free to go on with my life, debt free.
Do I think college is over priced and out of reach for too many students? Yes, I do. Do I think college should be free? No I don’t, because it won’t be valued.