College is Not for Me!
“College is not for me.” is one of the most common statements I have heard throughout my higher education and mentoring career. Although a college degree is not necessary to claim financial independence and success, it serves as a letter of permission to suit up for many People of Color who strive to set foot on the corporate career playing field, let alone, attempt to even it.
A 2014 study, by the national non-profit Young Invincibles, entitled Closing the Race Gap reported that African American millennials have to earn two educational levels higher than their white counterparts in order to have the same employment opportunities. The report went on to say that African Americans and Whites have nearly the same chance of employment with high education levels (pg. 8). The findings of the first part of this report are nothing new to People of Color, especially African Americans. Many of us grew up with the same words of wisdom from our elders, “You have to work twice as hard to get half as much.” It’s a sad reality, but not many will deny that it is still a reality.
The second part of the finding, I find hard to believe (as did a few commenters who shared their feedback on the non-profit’s site). As a Masters-level professional who was led to career-writing to encourage others who may relate to my experience, I have come across countless People of Color, especially African Americans, who are highly educated and qualified, and drastically underemployed. At the risk of coming across completely crazy, I must admit that I have found underemployment to be worse the unemployment. This is very much due to my past experience working the same job I worked in high school, years later, only with 2 degrees, years of internship and professional experience, debt that amounted to a pretty healthy down payment on a 3 bedroom house, and a defeated spirited.
Knowing what I know now, do I still believe college is for me and you? YES! YES! YES! Although my college degree did not pay off immediately after graduation, “Sallie Mae” and “Navient” have been added to my list of bad words, and throughout my career most of my equally-paid (or so I think) peers have had less education and experience, I am finally at a place where I can say my degrees opened doors. My degrees got me in rooms that would not be open to me without them even if those rooms were made more easily accessible to those who do not look like me. My college experience taught me valuable lessons about business, networking, and life. That experience combined with my struggle in and after college have grown me, and I am a firm believer that your higher education experience will grow you as well. So yes, I do believe that college may not be for everybody, but I do believe it is for us.