Reaction piece: Better Colleges Failing to Lure Talented Poor

The New York Times published Better Colleges Failing to Lure Talented Poor based off a study conducted by Carolyn Hoxby and Christopher Avery, and it got me thinking about the pressure of applying for college, getting accepted and paying for it all.

I’ve read many articles that analyze the “best colleges” and “best majors” with demographics, and it can be an overwhelming read. Depending on how you read it, you get the sense that your degree means nothing if it wasn’t earned from a particular school. Why can’t people just celebrate the fact that more students are graduating from college? But instead, people want to rank you and tell you how much you don’t really fit in.

Why are college rankings so important?

Anyway, after reading these articles, I feel like the thought process goes something like this: So if I major in business but don’t attend Harvard, I won’t get a job? And if I do get a job, I’ll only make $40k instead of making $70k all because I didn’t graduate from Harvard? So if I major in business and attend Harvard, I’ll definitely get a job?

I really love the arts, but I shouldn’t major in studio arts because there’s no money in it? I’m black and love petroleum engineering, but blacks make $40k LESS than white petroleum engineers. I can’t turn white ladies and gentlemen, so what are you expecting me to do? Where do you want me to go? What do you want me to major in?

Ok fine! But if I go THERE and major in THAT, and don’t get a job 2 seconds after I graduate, I’m coming after you!!!

And that’s the reaction I envision people have once they’ve changed their minds 17 times. If you’re undecided and just have no care whatsoever, sure, pick the best school and the best major and pocket that $100k as soon as you cross the stage. But if you’re passionate about a particular field and a particular University, don’t let these statistics change your plans.

That’s ridiculous and unfair to you.

I currently work for a website that does nothing but educate people on colleges and degrees, both online and traditional. I know medical assisting, psychology, business and health care all have really high projected job growth rates over the next decade. But I majored in journalism. And I’m more than okay with that.

And the school I went to, South Carolina State University, I knew nothing about until my counselor said I could go there for free. SC State isn’t considered a “better college”, heck people confuse it with the University of South Carolina so you already know that means the University has no rank. But I’ve never been the one to join the masses. I’d rather attend a small school and come out successful than attend a “better college” and have everyone saying my success came from the school I attended.

No, my success came from me!

But I know people who graduated from there and landed a job. I also know people from UGA, GA Tech, USC, Michigan, Ohio State, Temple, MIT etc. Some had jobs lined up before graduation, some didn’t. But that doesn’t mean I can say if I went to Ohio State, I’d have a job right now. But that’s what people do. They interview 1,000 people, attach it to a “better newspaper” and low and behold, the Ten Commandments for Higher Education.

The purpose behind this post is to let people know that numbers are just numbers. These surveys represent a minute number of people — some as low as 500 — so don’t get discouraged if your school/major isn’t on the Top 10 list or is on the Top 10 list for degrees NOT to have (they have that too). You excel and take the initiative, and you’ll have a great career with a great salary just like all those “better college” kids.

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