In this era of skyrocketing student debt and during an election cycle in which, insanely, high college tuition has been a key campaign issue, it's understandable that many millennials' attitude toward higher education can be summed up with the question "Is it worth it?"
While there's no one-size-fits-all answer to that question (because, like, no, it's probably not worth it to go $100,000 in inescapable debt for a dual degree in religious studies and photography), First Lady, Michelle Obama, wrote an op-ed in the latest issue of The Fader to make the "case for college" to young Americans.
Obama, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, wants millennials to know that there are no shortcuts to success and while there are indeed some people who become successful without completing their higher education, those cases are few and far between, and the best chance we have to make something of ourselves in this society is by educating ourselves. Obama writes:
Yes, once in a while, a uniquely talented — and lucky — person catches their big break without finishing their education. But they’re the exception. Here’s the rule: going to college is your best path to a big break — as a musician or in any other career you might want to pursue.
Whether you attend a four-year college, a community college, or a professional training program, getting a higher education degree is the key to building a successful career. That’s because in today’s economy, a high school diploma just doesn’t cut it anymore. In fact, studies show that compared to folks who only finish high school, people who graduate from college have an easier time finding a job and earn about $1 million more on average over their lifetimes. And I know from my own life experience that higher education can lead you to opportunities you can’t even begin imagine for yourself right now.
Obama recounts her journey from the South Side of Chicago through an Ivy League education, stressing that she wouldn't have been able to attend such elite institutions without the help of a government-sponsored financial aid. She acknowledges that for many young people, the path to college is not so easy as simply deciding to go and applying for financial aid. Some people face pressure from friends and family to not apply to college, or don't even have the basic support system in place to help them attain their goals.
For those people, Obama offers help in the form of her Better Make Room campaign, through which, Obama explains, young people can use the "tool called Up Next that can give you the extra push you need. Just text 'College' to 44044 to sign up and the folks at Better Make Room will send college tips and reminders right to your phone."
She also has worked to make applying for federal student aid (through FAFSA) a more user-friendly process, so that students won't get intimidated and abandon their college journey before it even starts.
Read the whole article, part of The Fader's "America" issue, here, and then think for a moment how lucky we are to have had Michelle Obama as First Lady for the last eight years—very.