By AARON A. MILLER
HEALDSBURG HIGH SCHOOL, JUNIOR, 17
Being a junior, I have recently begun my college search. I haven’t decided much, but one thing stands out from all my research: I cannot afford to go to college.
Realistically speaking, you probably can’t either: Even “cheap” public universities cost tens of thousands of dollars a year. In CSUs this year, students will pay $10,570 in tuition, while a UC will cost about $31,000. This is not even considering what a private university would cost. Stanford, for instance, costs $51,000 annually. As anyone lucky enough to get in will find, this is about $1,000 higher than the median income of an American family. In fact, even the cheapest universities would swallow up one-fifth of the average family’s annual income, and tuition is only going to go up.
Thank God for financial aid, right?
Wrong. Unless you’re desperately poor, most universities won’t be able to help you much, meaning you’ll have to rely on student loans, part-time jobs, credit cards, your parents’ salaries, drug dealing and perhaps a re-mortgaging of your home to get anywhere in life.
Speaking of which. When you graduate, you aren’t likely to get a job in your major, excepting business, engineering and anything high-tech, your interests will not be considered useful to society. Here’s a list of what you will probably do with certain majors:
Art: Live under a bridge. With hobos. More dumpster-diving than painting. Good luck.
English: Become a teacher. Get used to the fact that you will never own a home or a new car.
Any other liberal arts major: Find out that your major doesn’t apply to primary education teaching. Get a graduate degree in hopes that some college will hire you as their new professor. Apply for unemployment when they don’t.
Environmental-anything: Work for Starbuck’s. Volunteer at a nonprofit on weekends.
Physics: Go to grad school. Then find out budget cuts halted the new particle accelerator and no one wants a physicist unless he’s crashing atoms together. Teach high school science instead, and contemplate how quickly your youthful dreams were shattered.
Pre-med: Go to medical school. Then complete your residency. Find yourself with a million dollars’ worth of debt. Become a specialist because general practitioners don’t make enough. Then realize there aren’t enough general practitioners left to refer patients to you. Overdose on prescription drugs at 42.
Yes, this is the life a high school student can look forward to nowadays. Why? Because American society today values money over intellect, routine over innovation and, worst of all, the practical over the visionary. Had Isaac Newton graduated last year, he probably would be studying some practical field, such as engineering, rather than inventing calculus and divining the laws that govern the universe. Were John Locke and Karl Marx members of the Class of 2012, they would be warned away from philosophy because of the dearth of paying jobs, and never realize their potential.
I personally will attend whatever college I want, money be damned. And I will study whatever I want, future job prospects be damned. When I was young, my parents said I could be anything I wanted; now they warn me against certain majors that are supposedly impractical. I say, sometimes we have to be stubbornly impractical to do anything important; sometimes we have to go against common wisdom to change the world. And I’m not about to accept a life of mediocrity just because reality dictates it. Because I still believe I can change the world.