Three things you’re never told about higher education
I have three degrees; one undergraduate and two postgraduate. I’m not saying this to brag; it is a matter of fact. I have three degrees because the undergraduate one (Arts) didn’t deliver on its promise for better work opportunities, so I kept adding to it. I have an Graduate Diploma in Education and a Master of Arts in Communication Management. I studied because I believed that it would lead to better work opportunities. I’m not convinced, though, that this is the case, and here’s why:
1. You will be paying off your HECS debt FOREVER
I started my Arts degree in 1989; it was the first year that the Labor government (in its infinite wisdom) decided that students need to pay for their tertiary education. So they brought in HECS. As a student, you could choose to pay either up front (yeah, right) or via the tax system when you earned enough. As a solo parent, I didn’t work full-time so never reached the repayment benchmark. Consequently, like compound interest, my debt has kept growing, but not in a good way. I have had this debt for more than 20 years and still have thousands to repay. I will probably take it to my grave.
2. The job opportunities are rarely there
I wanted a tertiary education because I believed (as in bought into the hype) that it would be my ticket to better job opportunities and hence better pay. However, I now realise that unless one is an engineer (or working similar high demand area) one is in for disappointment. There is so much emphasis placed on tertiary education, but there needs to be a greater examination of return on investment. Is there really a correlation between economic and career success, and a degree? Sadly, I think not. Indeed, If I had my time again, I would target a particular industry or area of interest, gain an entry level position, and work my way up. And I wouldn’t have accumulated a HECS debt.
3. No one will value your degree more than you
Not your parents, your kids, your friends, your colleagues, your employer. No one else cares. Well, maybe your parents do (for bragging rights), but that’s about it.
So why even bother with a tertiary education?
My time at university (in all three degrees) has always been the happiest time of my life. Learning and I have always been firm friends. I enjoy the process of learning, of discovering new things, of synthesising and assimilating knowledge, of the way it’s honed my brain. I love the thrill of taking an abstract concept from an assignment, doing the research and then writing something that rocks. There is no greater thrill on this earth (well, this is probably debatable!) than when you receive a High Distinction for something that you wrote. And when you win a prize for being The Best Student of the year, well, that’s a completely out of this world experience. I have never married, but I will always maintain that a graduation ceremony would beat getting married, hands down.
But the most useful thing you will get from your degree? I think that it’s learning to be a lifelong learner.