Thursday, July 26, 2012

Expectations vs. Entitlement

Earlier this week I was browsing Reddit and found a post on r/Boston by a young radio producer who works with a Boston-area station that produces NPR-like content. His post was title "Youth unemployment is double the national average and median net worth for young households is down 68% in the last 25 years. In short, the “American Dream” isn't what it used to be. I want to tell this story" and basically he was looking for subjects willing to discuss their stories relating to not being where they want to be in life. Feeling very passionate about the subject, I volunteered myself and we met up yesterday afternoon.

After telling my story about college, my views on the difficulties faced by liberal arts grads, my take on Teach for America, and my short stint on unemployment, we got to summing up the argument as coming down to expectations vs. entitlement.

Throughout my story, we both realized that I didn't feel like I was entitled to anything, whether that be a better job, a higher salary, or better benefits from the government. However, I came to realize that my expectations had really changed over the past decade.

Upon entering high school, the American dream teaches us that college is the path that we need to take. College, it is told, will open up paths and jobs that are not available otherwise. If this is true, why are so many degree-holders currently working at coffee shops and reception/admin jobs? Why am I working at a job right now that I could have done without a college degree?

Therefore, college grads should have expectations. We should expect to get a well-paying job upon graduating that we couldn't normally find without a degree. We should expect to make above minimum wage after graduating from college. Otherwise, why did we go so far into debt for something that isn't aiding us? 

Expectations have changed drastically. The US higher education system has opened the floodgates and allowed too many students to attend college, thus making Bachelor Degrees only a step up in value over high school diplomas. Yet, what really gets me is that while this devaluation of our education is occurring, the cost of college education continues to rise!

And while I don't believe I feel entitled, I think college grads like myself SHOULD feel entitled. We spent tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands) on a college degree that isn't taking us (all) where we should be going. We're consumers - we purchased our college experience, some went for high-end private schools, more frugal others like myself chose state schools, so we should be entitled to a society or system that values our commitment to education and the purchase we made. Yet we graduate and find that this is not the case.

Disclaimer: I know a bunch of people who have done wonderfully with their Bachelor's Degrees and commend them. It is my personal opinion, however, that the struggle is new-found for grads in the humanities and liberal arts.

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