In the new age of internet stardom and social media influencers, many young people are ditching school in pursuit of easier but lucrative careers. Not a day goes by that I do not hear a peer of mine proclaim how much they would rather be a wealthy YouTuber or a TikToker. In fact, a recent study found that more than 86 percent of Generation Z and millennials would prefer posting internet content in exchange for money.
This comes as no surprise. Many of us have grown up watching influencers and YouTubers live lavish lifestyles while seemingly doing the bare minimum. Such a lifestyle seems relatively easy, especially when compared to how much effort and time being a student or a full-time worker requires. The traditional route of graduating high school, attending college and getting a job afterward seems almost obsolete.
Yet those who preach against higher education fail to consider the fact that for students in marginalized and underrepresented communities, higher education offers the most security.
I come from an immigrant family where I am the first person in my immediate family to attend college. Within my family, no one before me had ever accomplished this feat. This goes without saying that there is an enormous amount of pressure that comes with such an achievement.
I am not alone when I say this. In the 2015-2016 school year, research by the Center for First-generation Student Success found that 56 percent of undergraduates nationwide were first-generation college students. Across the nation, many first-generation families are essentially building their wealth from nothing. Like my own family, they are pioneers in a new land. We do not have any cushion to fall back on should our plans fall through.
Security is a must, and thus, education is the surefire way toward such a path. As first-generation college students, we are creating opportunities for ourselves that our parents and grandparents could only dream of ascertaining. For those of us in higher education for the first time, graduating from college is so much more than being handed a piece of paper. It tells a much deeper story of resilience, perseverance and determination.
My family traveled thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean so that I might have more opportunities. They left behind all that they had known because they believed that somehow, someway, in a foreign land, someone like me could attend university and thus live a better life. Students like me see college as a way to solidify their place in this country. It is our way of building wealth for ourselves and future generations to come.
In addition to the security that a college degree offers, attaining a formal education also holds significant historical importance. For the Black community especially, education is something that our ancestors had to fight for.
Education signified privilege, and this privilege was something that only a select group of people were granted. In the last few decades, this privilege has been made much more accessible to people of all races, genders and sexual orientations.
Although the playing field is still not equal even in today’s time, the mere fact that Black students like me can receive an education from an accredited university is no small feat. There is so much knowledge at our disposal that many people before us did not have access to.
And so time and time again, when I hear the argument that a university degree is no longer worth it, I cannot help but think of all the ways in which such an argument fails to consider what being a college-educated person of color means.
A university degree is our way of paying homage to all of our predecessors who made it possible for us to get to where we are today. It is a crucial aspect of not only our civil lives, but also of our personal lives. But this is not to suggest that a university degree is the only way to achieve all of this.
My point is that it is merely one solid avenue through which people from underrepresented communities can make their mark known in the country. Having grown up in a community that valued education has impacted my perspective and my outlook greatly.
It has taught me that it is okay to pursue other passions while also prioritizing learning. This is part of the reason why I think a university education (and the degree that accompanies it) will always be worth it no matter what.
Vanessa Darkoa is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in English and minoring in history and education. Her column, "As It Is," runs on alternate Thursdays.
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