Should you drop out of school?

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The current cost of education doesn’t match up with student expectations

By Esther Tung
Photos by Mark Burnham

There are a dwindling number of scenarios in which a university education is a sound investment. At SFU, a four-year degree will come to about 25,000 clams, more for the double majors, honours extras, and business students. But for many students in such programs, the degree will do little to help pay back your student loan.

White collar higher learning is useful if you wish to pursue a specific profession that requires a specific degree, as they usually entail grad school — law, medicine, and the hard sciences, for instance. But declaring a psychology major simply because you have to put yourself through four years of school is a complete waste of time and money.

University is a place for intellectual discussion, a centre of ideas for progress. At least, it used to be. Now it is widely regarded as a mandatory incubator for bushy-tailed high school graduates to prepare them for “the real world,” and a one-way ticket to the coveted middle and creative classes. But the structure of the collegiate curriculum has not evolved fast enough to match a changing world in which good ideas are worth more than good grades.

Communications classes do not prepare you for a career in public relations or advertising, it teaches you how to question the values of the big, bad media’s status quo. And if tutorial participation is anything to go by, the large majority of students seem completely disinterested in the subject. Most people have their thinking caps on, but seem to be under the impression that the caps will do the thinking for them.

The reality is that your honours in English literature is not a safety net. A double major will make your parents proud, but pride won’t rocket you to middle class-dom. If you are so passionate about moral philosophy that you are prepared to spend several years paying off the debt it’ll accrue, then none of this applies to you. I don’t doubt that knowledge and learning critical thinking has intrinsic value, but I caution against seeing your graduation diploma as anything that will elevate you from the 20 other candidates vying for the same internship at that social media marketing company.

For those who honestly can’t afford to be in university but have no idea what the hell you’re doing here, especially you first years, quit now while you’re still ahead and enrol in a trade school. Learn a specialized skill that few others have. With a pinch of luck, you’ll be in the $50,000 tax bracket in your first year of employment. Naturally, I don’t speak from experience, but my guess is that university will still be here in your later twenties, and you’ll have saved enough to put yourself through school, if that’s what you really want.

For those of you who will still insist on sticking around, just remember that grades are not everything. The number doesn’t matter because there will always be someone else who has done better than you. University is an investment in personal growth, not in a future with returns of a detached house, a BMW, and 2.5 kids.