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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Rachel Pott
Rachel Pott
News Writer

I am a marketing major about to start my second year at Northern Michigan University, however, this will be my third year in college. I previously attended a small community college...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

For What it’s Worth

From the moment we set foot in the American educational system, we are groomed for a college career.

Even before children are taught to read, they are instilled with the belief that only a four-year college degree will get them a job and get them to where they want to go in life. When those same kids reach high school, college is pushed as the only option after graduation, while other viable options, including trades and two-year degrees, fall by the wayside.

But the reality is, both two-year degrees and trades lead to not only job placement, but also occasional higher average salaries. An article published by CNN this week listed 20 high-paying jobs that didn’t require a four-year college degree. Among the top choices are air traffic controllers, with a yearly salary of $74,922, and lead carpenters, with a yearly salary of $63,395. The same article estimated that 44 percent of the current workforce does not have a college degree.

Next December, I’ll be graduating with a degree in graphic communication with a minor in journalism. What sort of salary can I look forward to? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a journalist with a four-year college degree is $48,464. The salary for graphic designers is even less. Notice a difference?

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Maybe kids don’t need college to be successful. But are they ever told anything different?

Although much of the pressure to attend a four-year college comes from the system itself, it also comes from families of students. Many families start saving for college education from birth, increasing the demand on kids to attend college.

The fact of the matter is, college is not for everyone, so why do we live in a society that tells us that is the only option?

At four-year colleges, tuition costs rise every single year and at a higher rate than inflation does. Most students begrudge this as a necessary evil and are forced to find a way to pay for it. That help can come from parental contribution, or from government loans and grants, but for many students it comes from private student loans. And at the end of their college careers, plenty of students are thousands of dollars in debt.

No student should be forced to go into debt if college is not for them in the first place.

Across Europe, the educational system functions very differently than it does in America. In Germany, children are put on different career tracks as early as the age of 11. All of their secondary schools require an exit exam, whether it is for entrance to college or to start an apprenticeship. In Ireland, students must gain a leaving certificate before they move to post-secondary education. Irish students may then attend a university or technical school. The difference from America? Equal value is placed on getting an education at either place.

It seems that the American education system could learn a little bit from its friends across the pond. If high school students were given an option that didn’t require massive debt or courses they aren’t interested in, and value was placed on that option, it seems logical that they would take it.

In reality, electricians, plumbers, air traffic controls and carpenters are all careers that need to be filled. The importance of these careers to society is paramount and unquestionable. And although some of these jobs may not require a four-year college degree, they usually still require extensive training, so why we should we devalue them?

Many of those 20 careers listed by CNN serve a purpose much more significant than the jobs that many of us with college degrees strive for, or will ever have.

In the end, society could survive without graphic designers, but not without plumbers.

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