Employment Guide: On the fast track to employment: Stop and smell the Gen-Eds

By Bethel Habte / Columnist

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I always knew that my scholarship to Pitt would save me a great deal of money. What I didn’t know was that the value of the scholarship far exceeds its monetary merits.

Too easily, I could have come to view my educational experience at Pitt solely in terms of employment potential — as a means of return on a hefty investment. But, in doing so, I would have failed to realize that my education was not merely an investment in my future but also an investment in myself. 

News reports limit students to viewing their education as an elusive promise of job security, rather than a way to broaden their mental horizons. 

This shift in attitude cannot be credited solely to either the role of the university or the students but, rather, the educational system as a whole. 

Consider general education requirements, for example. At Pitt, they are supposed to provide students with a general and broad education. Ideally, this is accomplished by requiring students to meet a certain quota of courses in a number of different departments. 

By loading students with a vast number of required courses, which are most likely in areas that they are not interested in, these requirements limit students’ ability to explore areas that may intrigue them, but not to the point of majoring in them.  

What has come to be a common attitude towards general education requirements is a begrudging obligation, coupled with a fervent endeavor to “get rid of” them. When was the last time, after all, that you looked at a course catalog without first noticing the requirements fulfilled? I’m sure nothing could equal the excitement of enrolling in the rare oddity that fills two requirements. 

A better alternative to the current system would be to implement a sort of course allowance — where students must take courses in departments outside of the major without restrictions on departments.

Yes, it’s true that students always have the option to go beyond the requirements and take additional courses to meet their varied interests.

While it’s true that they can, it’s just as true that they won’t. 

Today’s college students are pressured to consistently acknowledge the reality of the rising cost of education. 

In 2012, about 60 percent of the 20 million students who attended college every year found themselves forced to borrow annually to maintain their education.

As of last December, the average loan debt for students was $29,400. 

Year after year, students find themselves caught in the college loan trap. 

Currently, students with loans are unable to file for bankruptcy. Should you be unable to pay off your loans in your lifetime, the bank transfers it to your family. With the debt to income ratio at .49, those with student loans face a slew of difficulties when attempting to qualify for major purchases, like that of a house or a car, according to CNN. Yet, despite the massive portion of our population that is struggling to shoulder the burden of student loans, interest rates on federal loans continue to rise. 

With a college degree being a vital aspect of employment, the alternative — foregoing a college education     — hardly seems viable. 

In hindsight, spending $1,136 per credit at Pitt as an out-of-state student, or $703 as an in-state student, to develop your love of poetry hardly seems worth it. 

If we want to make a college education valuable to students for more than its employment potential, we have to implement a system that allows them to feel like they are a part of their educational experience. 

College provides an opportunity to explore areas of study you never thought possible, but this opportunity means nothing to a student whose primary feelings towards his or her education revolve around anxiety about its cost, course load and necessity. 

Write Bethel at beh56@pitt.edu.

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