Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Is university worth it?

That's what the BBC threw me at 8:08 this morning on BBC Breakfast.

WTF, Beeb? Honestly. I've never seen or heard such a load of BS before.

I always considered Europe, including the UK, to be much more learned, philosophically inclined, and to hold education in much higher regard than the US. Well. I was wrong. According to this morning's show, British students considering higher education will graduate with the highest levels of debt ever. So the news segment interviewed kids and asked them WHETHER THEY THOUGHT UNIVERSITY WAS WORTH IT.

What a dumb question. Of course it's worth it. But nobody at 17 or 18 can accurately answer that. When I was 17 and had to start looking at colleges, I was still of a mindset that I didn't want to go to college at all. I was looking forward to just leaving home and doing my own thing. The thought of studying for four more years was awful. Yet here I am, 6+ years and two degrees worth of higher education later, considering even more.

But even as I do consider another degree, the cost is daunting. According to the BBC spot, the average amount of student debt per graduate from a British university is £23,000. Compare that to the average amount of student debt in the US - $19,999. Even with the decrease in the value of sterling against the dollar, the average British student will owe approximately $18,000 more than the average American student.

The UK seems to value the craftsperson a bit more than the US; craft and non-traditional labor roles seem to be more prevalent in the media and general awareness here and therefore there seem to be more opportunities for students seeking alternative employment. Perhaps the scale of the country makes those in skilled labor (not white-collar) positions more visible, or perhaps I'm just more perceptive due to my non-nativeness. At the same time, the UK has a huge percentage of people who didn't even pass their GCSE's and survive on public assistance.

Whatever the case, the BBC segment focused on students who saw cost as a prohibitive barrier to higher education, and how they planned to overcome it or what they would do with their lives instead. Sadly, those who didn't opt for higher education said they would like to be store managers. There wasn't much more aspiration than that. That might be the key: maybe the whole concept of the worth of education is a direct correlation to how much you want to achieve from it.

So I'm curious: how many of who read my blog attended some form of higher education? And if you did, whether you graduated or not, did you have loans or not? And whatever the case - was it worth it?


  1. This post was made over 2 years ago, but I'm going to answer it anyway. (I'm a potential American expat to London and I've been reading your blog from the beginning for the last 3 nights...) Yes, I went to college and it was absolutely worth it. I did have loans and those are annoying, but not as annoying as it would be if I were trying to find a job (any job in this economy) without any degree at all...

  2. Hi Sarah, glad to hear the archives are getting some use! I hope you're finding them helpful. Don't take this post as an indication that the UK as a nation doesn't value education - in fact, I think they do much more than the US. But at the time this post was written, the country was undergoing serious doubts about its financial future and everything was being reevaluated. Anyway, good luck on your potential move and get in touch if you have any questions! x