Graphic by Sofia Bazzoberry
College has been set as the default option after graduating high school for many years. The other common route, the military, is far from a better option. We’re not meant to bat an eye to the astronomical student loans some of us will be taking out, or the debt they can lead to. The university track is so comfortably ingrained in our DC culture that we don’t think twice about the irony and futility of the provided “alternatives.”
Because of the generational and economic gap between us and our parents, there is little discussion surrounding the changing worth of a college education. Many students chafe understandably under these rigid and dated expectations, but they receive little help in choosing a future more suited for them.
Although most schools include what seems to be a plethora of alternate options; gap years, the military, trade school, technical training, travel opportunities, few of these options offer enough stability and permanence to really rival college. Most of them act as a placeholder and still have college as the intended end result.
While the wealthy can easily find this beneficial to them, it is plain to see that this does nothing to benefit those whose financial situation does not grant them access to a collegiate education. Ultimately this creates a university system that is deeply classist. College promises a future that only the working class needs, and only the wealthy have true access to. If all we have instead of college are simply other ways to arrive there, we are not only limiting ourselves, but turning our backs on anyone who decides to do anything legitimately different. Allowing for college to equate to success leads to the inevitable labeling of anything else as failure.
Wilson does its best to provide real alternatives to college for people who truly feel that university is not right for them. The College and Career Center holds a career fair after spring break, and in attendance, there are trade and technical school representatives. The office has pamphlets advertising technical positions with salaries. The senior counselors meet individually with students considering different career paths, and try to provide them with the options best suited for them.
The presence of options is there, but the burden of changing the narrative is on us. It is imperative that we realize that to allow the working class of this country to be undervalued in the workforce, or swept up and indoctrinated into the military is a conscious act of turning our backs to mass exploitation. •