So far the bulk of the mail I’ve received stems from my piece, “Is College Worth It?” I’ve gotten everything from pity to appreciation to flat out ridicule. The ridicule has been the most interesting to read. Quite a few have reacted as if I owed them money.
Many have questioned why after writing about my plight with student loans do I still feel comfortable with my choice to attend Howard University despite the effects of the economic crisis on the job market. One reader – a relatively recent college grad working in their field of choice – explains why in some cases taking on debt to attend known institutions may still be worth the gamble.
“I read your article, 'Is College Worth It?' online, and I had to respond and offer another point-of-view.
I graduated from Duke University in 2004 with a bachelor's in history (and a $17,000 student loan); I received my master's in broadcast journalism (and another $35,000 in loans) from Syracuse University a year later. I understand where you're coming from when you say it is tough to pay your student loans as a journalist. I currently am the 5pm news producer at an NBC affiliate station in North Carolina.
I was relieved to see at the bottom of your article that you do believe your pricy degree was worth it. I am also pleased with my choices, despite the more than $50,000 in student loans staring me in the face on graduation day. In this economy, getting a job has a lot more to do with who you know than what you know. Schools like Howard, Duke, and Syracuse, all offer national (and in some cases, international) name recognition.
When you chose your school, you were really choosing a brand name. I landed my first job in TV news because the general manager of my station had a niece who went to Duke; my second job was handed to me because I was a Syracuse grad."
Attending a “brand name” school alone cannot get you a job, but it can help.
While I do believe you can receive a quality education at a state school, certain institutions can be more beneficial than others depending on your career. That’s not to say you can’t achieve your goals if you choose to attend a lesser known college or university.
In the end, it all depends on you, what you want, and you do (or don’t) to get it.
For me, when I looked to people whose careers I admired, many of them attended Howard. Every school can provide a person with opportunity – they’re simply different types of opportunities. Being a Howard student and ultimately, an alumnus helped me tap into a network not many other schools could compete with.
I’ll never consider myself “dumb” for wanting to explore the possibilities and get an education that I felt a deserved.
I have never wanted to stomp back at Howard with my degree and ask for a refund. Not even a week ago when I lost my cool and used a lot of expletives to tell a customer service rep that her company needed to stop playing a game of dementia with my account.
My only regret about my college choice was that I didn’t spend more time researching ways to pay for it.
I don’t apologize for my ambition. I only want to encourage those with similar ambition to exercise caution and financial responsibility when planning for college — especially now at a time of great uncertainty.
Continue to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.