Thanks to Hollywood’s global dominance, even if one has never set foot on the American soil, every European has been exposed to American college life. Inevitably, both Americans and Europeans have their minds implanted with images of college adventures and academic hardship. What are the first things that come to mind?
- Heavy emphasis on sport. This is tightly related to big businesses infusing American universities with never-enough cash.
- Much greater leeway for extracurricular activities on large campuses, which are often the center of a town’s life.
- Fraternities and sororities serve as elite accommodations and life-long opportunities for social and business networking.
- More frequent interaction between the students and faculty members.
In comparison, European universities are conservative and lackluster. Their primary focus is put on studies, instead of offering a completely different way of life. American universities are designed as a hard break from the homely high school experience. They vary greatly in prestige, while European universities are more uniformed and ranked by the programs they provide. There is no sense of college glamour, and there are no long-lasting relationships formed in elite clubs and fraternities.
One inevitably concludes that American universities mirror the unique American culture. One of the global economic and military hegemony, an unparalleled economic, cultural, and military empire is reflected in it. This is why American students are nurtured in such academic bubbles, while the college experience of European students is more like a continuation of high school. European students are merely preparing themselves to be valuable employees.
Not So Fast
If you are already under the impression that American colleges are better than European ones, you better think twice. There are huge downsides to the American way of doing things.
The biggest flaw is that everything in the United States has a dollar sign, including education, which is almost entirely free in Europe. Consequently, the current U.S. student loan debt is immense – $1.6 trillion! The corrosive influence of capitalism is inevitable. Instead of making high school education relevant and important, American society embarked on creating an atmosphere where you are a loser if you don’t go to college. Not going to college became a social stigma.
In turn, this demand for college spiked inflation of absurd studies that have no relevant application in reality. You would think these are parodies, but they are worryingly real college courses:
- Queer musicology
- Lady Gaga and the sociology of fame
- Demystifying the Hipster
- The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie: Race and Popular Culture in the United States
By considering hyper-racialism, the American system is plagued with it. Student’s intelligence is merely one factor for successful admission, but it can be easily neutralized if a racial quota is not fulfilled. Americans call this form of racial discrimination „affirmative action,“ so it is more palatable. It is a great source of strife, but to this day, it continues to be upheld by the court system.
In response to the issue, federal college tuition subsidies further spike college tuition. If it sounds like a giant scheme in which all parties chase profit, you would be right. The students themselves seek future profits by gaining credentials. Unfortunately, if a student is not getting a STEM or business degree, they will hardly accomplish anything other than be burdened with crippling student debt.
The Cost of Conformism
Suffice to say, for the price of not being called a loser, millions of American graduates are burdened with debt, with poor prospects for the future as their useless college degrees serve no purpose for employers. In the age of the internet, where all knowledge is available at one’s fingertips, mostly for free, and students can get affordable writing help online, one has to wonder if we are reaching the end of the college bubble road.
With so many American college graduates forced to perform menial jobs under a debilitating debt, perhaps it will dawn on them that they have been used and abused by the capitalist system under the guise of credentialism and social status signaling.
The growing consciousness of online learning, which COVID-19 spurs profusely, certainly holds great potential for preventing future generations from falling into the trap of credentialism for social signaling. Many top companies have already moved away from college credentialism in the direction of internships and hands-on experience. Moreover, don’t forget that having an online portfolio and a well-crafted resume is often critical to land a job. Thus, it would be wiser to spend your time and money on studying online than waste tens of thousands of dollars on an Important Degree.