President Obama recently announced a “shocking” goal and desire to the American public: he wants to make community college free as long as students are willing to follow a few rules. The emphasis is on getting low income people into jobs that are sufficient enough to take care of their families. In the past, this didn’t mean college, but a proper apprenticeship program that would equip people with the skills “on the job”. The market has shifted, and many job paths require a college education. Going to college for many is a difficult choice, as they are trying to get through the challenges of life. Having a family makes college difficult because you have to balance their needs with your desire for more education. Community college can feel out of reach when you have so many responsibilities.
Some have called the plans for free education wasteful, shameful, and even radical. However, we aren’t quite sure if free education is all that radical. For Europeans living far away from America, free or dramatically reduced schooling is a way of life. It’s something that we expect for our children, because we know that education leads to better paying jobs and more stability. When we look at children as the future, why shouldn’t we look at their education?
No country’s education system is perfect. It’s very easy for someone to look at the criticism of education in America and just assume that we think that all Americans are lazy, uneducated, and unwilling to change. We can criticize and highlight the American system of education without saying anything about individual Americans. If we lose that ability, then quite frankly we’ve lost everything that matters.
Free education is a hot topic, but it doesn’t have to be the only topic that we discuss.
For students that will be affected by this plan, there are a few things that you need to think about. First and foremost, you need to think long and hard about major selection. Flip flopping through a lot of different majors isn’t a good idea, for a wide variety of ideas. Think of the free education plan as a way to help you get a leg up, rather than to be a second home when you can’t make up your mind. Choosing a career path is difficult, but you don’t have to choose in a vacuum. You can reach out and talk to numerous advisors that have tackled this problem before. There are also online aptitude tests that you can use in order to narrow down what you want to achieve. If you know of professionals in your area that are in the field you’re most interested in, nothing is stopping you from contacting them. Just let them know that you are at a crossroads. Again, you aren’t the first student to have this problem.
For those that have already received their degrees, try to have a little more understanding. With job competition on the rise, it’s hard for people to feel like they’ve got a fighting chance if they don’t have any education or formal training.
No matter which camp you fall into, our final advice is this: never stop learning. The Internet is still a great way to really “catch up” on a subject, even when you’re not feeling like you can break in. There are also volunteer opportunities online that you may be able to use later to build a resume, even before your first job. Check it out and don’t sell yourself short!