Perspective: Why are we in college?

Why are we going to college?

Or, more fittingly, what’s the point? This is a question every college student should ask themselves repeatedly.

There are some alarming statistics regarding California’s community colleges that stem from a widespread ignorance of this very question. San Diego City College’s graduation rate currently sits at 17 percent.

The school I transferred from last fall, East Los Angeles College, has an equally insignificant graduation rate of 19 percent.

These numbers could potentially be quite damaging to all students, if it hasn’t already.

Let us consider for a moment the frame of mind of the average taxpayer. Nay — let’s do this another way: think of yourself as an investor seeking a new business to buy because this is what every taxpayer is (an investor in the good old USA), and you come across a charming corndog-stick manufacturer in need of serious investors.

But there’s one problem with this corndog-stick manufacturer: the sticks have a success rate of only 17 percent. This means that the vast majority of these sticks are faulty. And the corndogs affected are hitting the pavement in droves, giving way to innumerable mustard stains, infuriated mothers and sobbing children.

Would you have any desire to invest your hard-earned green in a company like this? In such a measurable failure?

But this is the exact quandary in which California taxpayers have found themselves. Why would they choose to increase (let alone maintain) the budgets of California community colleges when the rate of success and high graduation rates is as low as it is?

This doesn’t seem to me to be the fault of the instructors or the administrators of our community colleges. Who knows the number of head-shaped dents in the walls of our frustrated instructors’ offices? The buck largely stops with us — the students.

I won’t pretend to be an expert on this issue. I’m fully aware of my lack of experience regarding many of the difficulties college students may deal with these days. However, there is one area that I feel I’m qualified to address: scholastic apathy.

This issue of slacking is something I’m all too familiar with. I graduated from high school in ’07 in Kaysville, Utah. I spent the next two years at the University of Utah, major undeclared — and I couldn’t have cared less. I skipped class (or “sluffed” as we say in Utah) on the daily, steering clear of anything remotely resembling homework. I slept through or ignored more finals than I can bring myself to recount.

I was young, invincible, naïve and a steadfast subscriber to XBOX Live. I just refused to accept the realities of adult life. The iron mallet of just what it means to be a grownup had yet to smack down.   As a result, I wasted almost two years worth of my parents’ and my government’s college money.

I denounced my higher education in May of 2009 and moved to Los Angeles to play drums for a band.   My plan was to hit the big time and call it a day while scoffing at those who had doubted me. It took two more years for adulthood to begin to slip certain questions into my skull: Have you made any decent money at all? No. Have you a backup plan? Not really. Wouldn’t you perhaps someday hope to enjoy the comforts of financial stability, home ownership, health insurance, a family even? I reckon as much.

The iron mallet had struck. I was tired of living in a warehouse downtown. The diet of ramen noodles and Taco Bell was getting stale. I was sick of lame, uninspired day jobs, tired of being broke and waiting around for a record deal to relieve me of it. Then it hit me — I needed (I wanted) to go back to school.

My mother was oh, so proud when I did. So was I. And luckily for me, pushing music aside for the time being wasn’t the shattering of dreams I’d always feared it would be. Playing in a band just wasn’t as captivating as it used to be. And thanks to a 2010 Christmas present from an uncle, I had begun to develop a deep affinity for postmodern literature, something that was already dethroning my musical ambitions.

My grades are much better this time around — now that I care, now that I’m finally able to understand the importance of an education. Now that I’ve grown up just a little bit.
Applying for college (especially community college) is an easy thing to do, unfortunately developing and maintaining the habits and lifestyle of a successful college student isn’t nearly as simple.

It is tough and sometimes boring and incredibly unsexy. But college is worth taking seriously. The fruits of your hard work and dedication is worth it. If college isn’t a top priority for you, you might just not be ready for it. Take some time off like I did, get an underpaying job like lifting really heavy things, paying bills, and prepare for the myriad rude awakenings to come.

Hopefully, everyone can stick around and help jack up the graduation rate. If we take our education more seriously, if we can invest in ourselves and our futures, those other investors, the people controlling and paying for our school budgets will do everything in their power to help us along the way.   Of this I am certain.

They’d be crazy not to.

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Perspective: Why are we in college?