Abandon all hope, ye who enter here

Jonathan D. Septer

In 1996, the cost of my tuition was less than two grand a semester. I also didn’t pay for parking or printing. I was told my tuition covered these costs — which makes sense. These are the things the cost of tuition should cover, but the last ten years has shown a marked increase in hidden costs across the nation.

What happened?

Capitalism happened. The cost of college consistently climbs out of the reach of the middle class unwilling to end four years of college more than $32,000 in debt. The failing economy and steady stream of jobs leaving the country offers little incentive to hope for a job that will erase the debt college incurs.

So where are the middle class kids who skipped college?

Meet “Aaron.” He works in construction and roofing and brings home $13 an hour. He works more than 40 hours a week, and his damaged body needs a steady stream of pain-killers he must find illegally because his non-union job doesn’t include insurance.

Now meet “Jeff.” He spent the last year unemployed — anybody out there looking for a job understands why. He worked various odd jobs helping his friends before finding a job last month. He makes $14 an hour laying concrete in most any weather. With any luck, his body won’t go the way of Aaron’s, but at least he’ll have the option of health insurance. He was lucky enough to get in a union outfit.

Good money can be found without college, it just requires hard work (or it’s illegal).

But what can you expect if you graduate college?

This question is of great importance to me. I graduate in December (fingers crossed). I’m a writer. Thus far, I think my career has cost me money. Average four-year English majors can make $8 an hour if they can find a job in their field. Less if they want to teach. It’s a good thing I don’t want to go to grad school.

But what are the options for a college graduate with a four year degree?

Meet “Ann.” She’s a bartender. She’s also a college graduate with a degree in theater. Amazingly, she has found work in her field. She’s had roles in a few films shot in Ohio, but as she always says: “Horror’s the only genre they film in Ohio.” Unfortunately this leads her to fear type-casting, and thus far she makes much more as a bartender than is possible for an actress to make in Ohio.

Here’s the most pertinent thing I learned in college: Money is the most important thing in this life, and those who have it will tell you whatever they have to in order to take yours. This is why college is a continually growing industry. You are their product. You may be crafted by shoddy workmanship, but they can pump you out by the thousands these days. Quantity beats quality. Ask a business major.

I know you’re looking to this paragraph for hope in the future of education: I’m sorry. We’re at the ninth circle. You should have read the door-sign.

Jonathan Septer is a senior English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].