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Million-dollar question

Sofia Hashi | Fulcrum Staff

I’VE ALWAYS WISHED I could experience what Biggie Smalls prophetically declared in his song “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems.” Like most other students, my financial woes stem from a lack of money, not an abundance. While we students may hope for a future in which a 20-dollar bill we find on the ground will seem like chump change, it’s not likely to happen anytime soon. Maclean’s magazine recently released an article about the “million-dollar promise” most university grads were assured and now want to collect on. The promise? A paying job.

Apparently, the lie that has been perpetuated is that if you go to university, you’ll get a well-paying, white-collar job—as opposed to your non-degree-holding counterparts. The magazine says that according to statistics, a person with a degree should make $1.3 million dollars more throughout their career than someone without one. But as Maclean’s pointed out, that just isn’t happening.

A university degree should guarantee a decent-paying job, right? Isn’t that the risk we take on spending up to $40,000 and four years at a post-secondary institution? We expect the return of our investment to be significant, considering its cost. But Maclean’s might be right about the million-dollar cheque we’ll never cash, let alone see.

The current job market for recent grads is abysmal, and we don’t need fancy statistics to tell us that. While students who chose a professional field in university (e.g. engineers), or went to school to gain a specific skill set (e.g. doctors or lawyers) will be able to live a comfortable, upper-middle-class life, the rest of us who studied liberal arts degrees just might be out of luck. We might find ourselves staying at our part-time jobs longer than expected.

The problem here isn’t that there aren’t enough jobs, or even that the economy is just bad (but that does have a significant impact). The issue lies in why we all choose to go to university. Few promises, even million-dollar ones, come without conditions. If you are choosing to attend university to ensure a decent quality of life and continued employment after you graduate, make sure to go into a program that will give you a specific, valuable skill. If you enter a degree program that statistically doesn’t tend to lead to the big bucks, keep your expectations humble. And if you just want to become Oprah-rich by the time you’re 25—Drake, I’m looking at you—you’re better off dropping out of school and curing diabetes or founding the next Twitter or Facebook.

Our main priority shouldn’t be to make some quick cash after convocation. Rather, university should be about learning. Shocking, I know. We should attend these great institutions not solely for monetary gains, but to gain knowledge, learn how to think critically, and better analyze the world and ourselves. People didn’t always attend university for the sole purpose of getting a high paying job; only in the second half of the past century has the shiny dollar sign become a way of drawing students into higher education.

With regards to that 20 bucks you just found? Keep it. Finders keepers still applies after elementary school, and who knows, you just might need the extra cash.