Universities do not have universal appeal


As seen in the Nov. 8 issue
Robert Katz, web editor-in-chief
Despite the chaos and distress that surrounds the college application process, one prospect lends many students a focus for their efforts: a successful career. Thankfully, Beverly has increasingly pushed for students to attend universities, helping to sustain a college attendance rate of about 95.4 percent. Yet, there are alternative options for graduating students who seek careers but do not see a university experience as necessary.
Beverly has developed a school culture that seems to condemn alternative educational choices. Perhaps most prominently, Santa Monica College, while dealing with both overpopulation and financial issues, is a highly viable choice for students who cannot attend an affordable university. However, it has taken on a reputation as a “dumpster” for students who will not be going on to college. Although in jest, a common student response to academic frustration is that they will “just go to SMC.”
While it is true that few students in AP and honors classes may have reason to attend SMC, why should we condemn it? Financially, the famed community college is very easy on the wallet, with estimated annual expenses of $26,500, as opposed to $32,415 for California residents at UCLA, or $53,490 for non-residents at the University of Michigan.
Vocational training is also an option for students who want to develop the skills they need for a specific field without spending time learning things such students view as unnecessary. Trade and technical schools provide the education needed to go into specific fields, such as plumbing or nursing, usually without offering a liberal arts education. The Regional Occupation Program (ROP) that has gathered so much attention in recent years, bringing career-based specialization courses to high schools, simulates vocational schools by offering similar educational opportunities. Although, with recent state and county budgetary issues and this year’s removal of the ROP Counselor position, the ROP will face some harrowing times in the next five years.
To many, however, the benefits of attending a university are overwhelmingly worth the costs. There really is no avoiding the appeal. According to The Atlantic, this January’s unemployment rate for those with four-year university degrees was about 3.7 percent as opposed to 7 to 8.1 percent unemployment for those with a high-school education and some or no college. Thirty-seven percent of the workforce was composed of degree holders, and 55 percent of the workforce composed of the second group. As well, workers with less than a bachelor’s degree make a median annual earning of $37,950, as opposed to a median annual earning of $50,000 for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
The push for more students to attend college is a welcome one. However, there is little use to reducing the appeal of educational options that may be better alternatives for some students. There is no one-size-fits-all pathway through life, nor is there one for education. We should encourage ourselves and each other to pursue not just education, but the education that is right for each of us.