Destroy stigma around college.

By Mikie Weidman

For decades, college has been seen as a “requirement.” If a person does not attend college they are seen as apathetic, unambitious, and lacking direction. That is a lot of pressure to put on a teenager. American society has a huge stigma around college, the stigma is that college is the only way to be successful. College is a set of railroad tracks to the future, all you have to do is get decent grades. We as society have always had this stigma but really America just wants more money from its citizens. That’s why American society pressures people to go to school. Unfortunately, college debt is at an all-time high, surpassing credit card debt. The average minimum wage in America is $7.25; even if a high school student works after school, on the weekends and during the summer for four years and saved every penny, that would not  come close being enough money to pay college tuition costs. Telling an 18-year-old that they have to pay $40,000 or be labeled — maybe forever —  a loser is wrong. This idea that college is the most important accomplishment you must achieve in your lifetime is really stressful for the average American family. The average American family makes roughly around $50,000 compared to college debt this family will not be able to pay for college.


This map illustrates the average income a household in each state in the United States makes a year. It is a little outdated but it has not changed as much as it should after six years. Americans have not been having salary raises but instead have had higher rent and living expenses throughout the year. A lot of American families can’t pay for college, which as seen by society will make them unfulfilled.

Paypal Cofounder Peter Thiel is offering to pay teenagers $100,000 not to go to college. Thiel wants students instead to found their own capitalist ventures. Thiel’s foundation receives 2,800 applications a year. A lot of young adults are antsy; they want to start their lives “right now” but feel that college is a pause from their successful future. Thiel wants to get them started right away, there is no need to wait, “Pursue ideas that matter instead of mandatory tests. Take on big risks instead of big debt. How you spend your two years in the Fellowship is up to you — we’re here to help, but we won’t get in the way.” Thiel is not the only person to find college to be pointless. Google “Why shouldn’t I go to college” and you will end up looking through millions of results, of various different people with different stories who think the importance of college is false, and overrated. Adding the expense of a four-year college has made a lot of people, who have gone so far as to publish their opinions on the internet just to to get their point across that they don’t think college isn’t worth attending at all.

Jillian Gordon also believes college is overrated, but she has a different perspective of why people should not attend university. Gordon teaches agricultural science in a high school, and is encouraging her students not to go to college. She does not want her students to waste money, on a college degree when she knows they probably will not be able to make it all the way through college. College is a lot for Gordon’s students to take on and she is sick of seeing her students have anxiety trying to figure out how they are going to pay for their education and how they will get into college. Gordon doesn’t want to see her students drop-out of college over the tremendous stress and pressure society has put on getting a degree. Forty-five percent of college students end up dropping out. Gordon is tired of seeing her students fall into this cycle.

Bernie Sanders believes college should be free. Sanders has come up with a six-step approach. First, make tuition free for public colleges and universities, Sanders is following the plan Germany is already using. Second, stop the federal government from making a profit from student loans: “the federal government makes a $110 billion each decade”, Sanders says. Third, cut student loan interest rates. Fourth, allow Americans to restructure student debt. Fifth, allow students to use need-based financial aid and work-study programs. Sixth, impose high taxes on wall street speculators. Christopher Denhart believes “free” college would not even really be free because it would result from higher taxes, making taxpayers pay a lot more taxes, so it would not really be free. But, Sanders rebuts this by saying many other countries have done this and it has actually raised the rate of citizens going to college.

Economist Bryan Caplan argues that there isn’t a lot of evidence that college graduates are paid more. This turns out to be true. When it boils down to it, a college degree is just another added sentence on your resume. Caplan also believes the hype around college does not look that great on paper, even if someone goes to Harvard they could still end up working in Starbucks, being crushed by mountains of debt.  This web page leads to tons of articles of many people talking about all the impressive schooling they have, but then end up living unimpressive, mundane lives. If the stigma is that everyone must go to college, that it’s almost all that matters in life, and then not having a significant gain in salary after college, makes the commitment to college questionable — even disappointing. To add to the disappointment, the college graduate unemployment rate is pretty high.


This graph shows how college graduate’s unemployment rate is not much different from the total population. This demonstrates how little a degree actually influences your chances of getting a job in the United States.

It also has been said by psychologists and the ADAA, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, that college stress can be directly related to anxiety and depression in young adults. College is a lot too for some students to handle making them fall into anxiety and depression. ADAA believes that the stigma around college forces students to push themselves way too hard. Without this stigma students would be able to figure out their limits and know what is best for their mental health.

With the huge stigma and stress around college, all the people mentioned in this essay clearly think American society must get rid of the stigma around college. The people mentioned also raise the question, “Why even go at all?”. College is very expense, loans are available but that will put you in serious debt. College students have been struggling with serious debt and it has only been rising.

debt quadrupled[1]

In this chart it displays the years 2003-2013, every year is has the number of billions of dollars the bank has given out in loans for college students each year. Student loan debt has nearly quadrupled over the past ten years.

One of the simple solutions to the problems raised by the people in this article is to destroy the stigma around not going to college. If American citizens destroy the stigma around college, students would not have to face the problems of how to afford college, dealing with dropout students, unemployment, debt and mental illness. All these problems would be avoided if the stigma around college no longer existed, young adults would know their limits and be able to decide what is the best for their future. The people in this essay believe that college does not have to be the only option for young adults to further their future. The people in this essay also believe we as a society must destroy the stigma around college. 


9 Comments Add yours

  1. Yesenia says:

    It is so often when I feel that I am being pressured to go to college for my image rather than my own needs. I think this is very informative from that aspect.


    1. mikaelaweidman says:

      Thank you, I agree the image of a college degree is a lot of the stigma.


  2. Enrique avalos says:

    I think that if college was free there will be a lot of students taking it for granted like high school and just not go.


    1. Omari King says:

      I somewhat agree but also disagree because I think also the way you get admitted into college is a big problem


  3. lucyrosenthal says:

    I think this is a really important aspect of your topic, my sister decided not to go to college because she didn’t want debt, I wish I thought more along the lines of that.


  4. Amanda Levin says:

    Again, a focus on college cost here, which is not the subject of this narrative… But I think the college stigma, or rather the NON-college stigma) is really interesting. I wonder if your generation is seeing a shift in this stigma since there seems to be such a preference to training over education (“how will what you are teaching us help us get a job/in the ‘real’ world/get paid”) which was NEVER the intention of higher education, that was what vo-tech and apprenticeships were for. #thetimestheyareachangin


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