In Response to a Graduate Salary Database

21 Jan

This article#, hosted at the Huffington Post Education site when I came across it but originally run by The Hechinger Report, caught my attention. Most college graduates remember the agony of trying to sort through the myriad of colleges across the U.S. to find the one that would not only suit their intellectual interests but give them a chance at a lucrative job. Then I hit the quote by Carol Geary Schneider with the age old adage that students should “Follow their passion.”

My initial reaction to Schneider’s plea for the liberal arts education was to agree with her. Students should be allowed to chase their dreams and reach for the stars, after all isn’t that what your twenties are for. That’s what I did.#The more I considered this idea though I realized the futility of it for communities mired in the politics of being low-income and minority. Communities like the one I came from and the ones that so many of my students belong to. The ideal of earning an education in the liberal arts wasn’t even my original goal.

When I started at Macalester my plan was to study Japanese Language and Translation. I fully intended to become a translator a career which would provide me financial stability and a long running career. Certain circumstances kept me from choosing this path and I choose to run with my passion, writing. For some reason the rhetoric that I used to convince myself was just the logic that Schneider spouts in the article:

“Your college decision should be about becoming an educated person…finding something you care deeply about”

Though I’m in a great job now I’ve had my concerns as I explored my post-college options and began paying the bills for my expensive education. Was my degree worth it? The school I choose was amazing and I love the experience but what is the piece of paper worth?

To my mind the legislation stepping forward does present the obstacles that are listed. I can only imagine that these databases are extremely limited and not give a complete picture of a particular school’s alumni. However, I am encouraged that a database of schools that has to say where there students are achieving the most success in concrete numerical terms will allow students like the ones I work with to not be fooled by scam artist for-profit institutions that are simply running a cash mill rather than valuing their students.

Someday  I want my own yet-unborn children to be able to choose both a lucrative career that also allows them to follow their passions. Perhaps the answer to this is not the either/or mentality that seems to be running rampant currently but rather changing policies of higher education institutions to allow Students more room for a double major or a minor which allows this. Perhaps as a society we need to place more value on these additional titles that our graduates hold so that students are able to study Law and piano and feel that both are an essential part of their educational history. To be perfectly frank what we probably need is a database that measures salary and satisfaction. Since that is not likely to happen anytime soon I would caution educators and educational administrators to consider that background of all of the students they serve rather than a majority who can choose between cash and passion. Too many families begin to feel they must force their children to choose.

# Jon Marcus. “New Pressure on colleges to disclose grads’ earnings.” Hechinger Report. 17 Jan. 2013. Web 17 Jan 2013

#I received an expensive private liberal arts education at Macalester College and it is one of the decisions in my life that I know I will never regret. I graduated with a degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing which isn’t exactly lucrative unless you get a great book deal or become a professor.

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