I’m about to finish my third degree, and while that is an awesome feat to accomplish I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss the challenges that I see it comes to individuals with higher education degrees. Even the term “higher education” can be deceptive, and as an employee of a higher education institution, I have an interesting perspective about how it all fits into greater meaning.

To me, intelligence is crazy attractive. But, can one be “intelligent” having earned the bear minimum education? Are there also educated dummies walking around with multiple letters behind their name? Yes, and yes.

One thing I’ve noticed from working at my institution (granted, I’ve only worked at one higher education institution, but I can’t imagine they are much different in many aspects, including the one I’m about to discuss) is the politics involved. The word politics has grown to put a bad taste in people’s mouths. But, to be clear, my reference to politics is the use of authority to dictate procedure, in a top-down fashion, and absent of shared opinion. In short, politics govern the policies and procedures that get dictated to those who rarely have a seat at the table to offer input on the that which will directly affect them.

I’ve seen politics affect when employees will be paid, how much of one’s check will be devoted to healthcare, and whether or not individuals qualify for overtime. I’ve also seen the affects of politics as it pertains to the student body – verifying one’s lawful presence to attend a public research institution, who gets admitted versus who doesn’t, and more recently who gets to graduate and who doesn’t.

It bothers me that current policy has been adjusted to focus on numbers primarily; that quantity has replaced quality.

How many students are graduating from college because they’ve just been shuffled along? Far too many, and the number is rising. It makes me question whether we’ve moved from putting value on education, or just assigning a diploma that verifies you know how to complete something. I see too many students as seniors, which indicates by this point you should have established a sound ability to communicate your thoughts in writing, who cannot form a complete, professional thought. It’s concerning, to say the least. Are students paying thousands of dollars simply to exit as ill-prepared, surface-deep, unproductive members of society?

To what end is education valuable? Who determines what value is and what it isn’t?

Earning a degree in higher education can open doors to you that otherwise would not have been. Earning a degree past high school teaches you invaluable lessons like diversity, humanity, socialization, time management, and the importance of deadlines. Completing a post-secondary education degree has provided a strong foundation for many to continue on to bigger and better.

An overwhelming majority of graduates, however, do not even use the material they learned in college. With the exception of professional degrees (think professions like law, medical, dentistry, etc.), lately I’ve questioned more and more whether the value of the time, effort, and money I’ve put into pursuing a degree is wholly worthwhile.

Do you learn theories and perspectives of others, to regurgitate said “knowledge,” or actually develop a meaningful contribution toward society? I think both can be answered yes and no.

My first master’s degree, in education with a focus on Adult Education, was no walk in the park. I read no fewer than 20 articles per course in a given semester. Can I recall any one, just one, of any of them? No. I do remember the theories, which I guess I could develop into my own meaning and how I will apply that education to further my career goals. Or, is it all just a waste of time? I won’t deny that graduate school is hard work. It takes dedication, time management, critical thinking, and a juggling of multiple tasks. But, at the end, sitting here now on the cusp of completing my second master’s I cannot help but inquire, “What’s it all for?” Just to say I did?

Well. This post is less one to offer a solution than it is to present the questions. I don’t have the answers. I can say I’ve known some extremely intelligent individuals who completed only high school, as I will admit I have worked with some blatantly unintelligent individuals with PhDs. They are, perhaps, experts in their area of study, but blindly insignificant to larger matters of the world.

I do believe education serves a purpose. Like I mentioned earlier, those core values one develops from being on their own the first time, learning to prioritize between desire and responsibility, managing one’s time when multiple demands are thrown at once – these skills don’t just get cultivated by reading about it; you have to go through it.

So are those skills worth the hundreds and thousands of dollars of debt our country’s educated are finding themselves in?

Congratulations, you can add this to your resume!

Resumes can’t be converted into money in the bank, however. And, isn’t that what the end goal is? Or to hold philosophical conversations? Perhaps both.

I’ll let you decide.

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