My Year in Scholastic Indentured Servitude
Work-study was my way to a college education. But was spending time on a useless, low-paid job really worth it?
Ask someone about the worst job they ever had and you’re likely in for a story. A babysitting gig from hell. A Steinbeck-esque tale about toiling in a fish-canning factory. Workplace bullying. Sexual harassment. Safety violations. Unreasonable demands. Unpaid overtime.
I’ve had some bad jobs, but to be honest, I’m not even sure my worst job qualifies as a job since I didn’t get paid. In the most generous terms, I bartered my time for passage into higher education. In the harshest terms, you might call it indentured servitude.
College was sold to millennials as a necessity — the operative word here is “sold.” Hundreds of thousands of us are carrying the cost of this successful PR campaign. Compared to many of my peers, I don’t have a huge amount of student debt, but it’s enough so that every time I see the words “student loan forgiveness” in the news, I get a pleasurable tingle down my spine.
Whether we’ll ever see any relief remains a mystery, but the internet loves to debate the topic. Someone will inevitably jump into the comments section with, “I paid off my loans, so why should other people get a break?” Other people, my people, will point out how annoying this is. Why wish ill on others because you had a tough time?
But the thing that annoys me most within this discourse is the sentiment that “not everyone needs to go to college.” I don’t disagree with this premise — on a surface level, I very much believe it’s true. There are endless useful things to do in this world that do not require a four-year college education. And there are many roles that should be open to people with diverse backgrounds, instead of just those with precise educational credentials. What’s implied in the “not everyone needs to go to college” argument is that not all poor people need to go to college. After all, if you can pay for it, what difference does it make? It’s just another way to spend your money and your time. It’s only the people who can’t pay the costs outright for whom it might be worth pursuing a different path in life.