It’s no secret that Lovejoy schools have high education standards. The amenities that the district can take pride in—from a library full of Mac computers to a testing center—are often taken for granted by students. Few privileges compare, however, to the existence of two college and career counselors. Neighboring high schools can boast of no such counselors, yet our school has two. While the college counselors are incredibly useful for a student body inundated with confusing college applications, having these counselors is a reflection of the district’s emphasis on college-readiness.
It’s not just Lovejoy that has turned its focus to higher education. The Pew Research Center reports that a rising number of people are now graduating from both high school and college, with the percent of people getting degrees at a 10-year high. Not coincidentally, the cost of college is increasing, and the same people now obtaining an associate’s degree or higher are also experiencing crippling student debt.
It’s true that people who have a college education are earning, on average, $17,500 more per year than people with only a high school diploma. Because of this, schools are increasingly set on producing students calloused by AP exams, molded by SAT prep courses, and prepared to do whatever is necessary to be in the top 10 percent of the class. While this can create a competitive atmosphere that’s healthy for a motivated student, an attitude that assumes college is the best choice for everyone damages our society in several ways.
Students are told for years that college is the most estimable course to pursue after high school graduation. Even more influential than the explicit pressure placed on students to attend a university is the underlying stigma that surrounds vocational schooling or moving on to a career directly after high school. Though as students we know that tens of thousands of dollars will be spent on our college educations, we still look down on students that choose to go to a community college instead of a more prestigious, expensive university.
It seems like students and educators have forgotten that high school has purposes besides churning out college-ready students. High school provides students with social skills and problem-solving tools necessary for a career. Instead of cultivating a student’s passions, the college culture that exists in high schools teaches students to work the system in their favor, to look down on people who choose (necessary) technical jobs or pursue a career upon graduating from high school.
While attending a university is the best path for many students, college is not for everyone. To be clear, the district’s emphasis on college preparation and its availability of tools allowing students to work towards higher education are some of the many advantages of going to Lovejoy High School. However, if schools want to really challenge students, they need to focus on college and career preparation. The reflexive mentality that every student should go to a college is outdated in an era when degrees are more expensive than ever, though they may not be more valuable.