Student Question

What is the summary and theme of "College is a Waste of Time and Money"?

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In "College is a Waste of Time and Money," Caroline Bird makes the argument that only academics and specialists need to go to college. Other students attend college because it is expected that they will and because they do not know what else to do. However, they would do better to save the money they spend on college and enter the workforce directly.

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The theme of Caroline Bird's essay "College is a Waste of Time and Money" is summed up in the title. To elaborate slightly, Bird explores how college is generally regarded as the inevitable successor to high school in the career of the successful student. However, she argues, this is a mistake, since most students do not need to go to college and could use the years and money they spend there more productively.

Bird begins by saying that most college students are not in college because they want to learn, but because it is a relatively agreeable way to postpone getting a job. College has become a burden on parents and taxpayers, as it has grown into a huge an expensive industry. Moreover, most students do not want to be there and are in college primarily because they can think of nothing more productive to do. College has become a universal institution, and it is assumed that young people will go there. In other words, you need no reason to go, but have to explain if you decide not to do so.

Bird then seeks to debunk the idea that college is a good investment. She calculates that if students were to bank all the money they spend on college, this would, in most cases, more than make up for the higher earnings of graduates (which, she points out, may not be the result of their degree anyway). Students do not need degrees for the job market and can gain an excellent education in the liberal arts through their own reading. Therefore, while college is useful as a training ground for academics and specialists, it is not necessary for most people.

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