Is college worth it?

The film Ivory Tower, directed by Rossi,shows many serious contemporary problems.l think the most important problem is:”Is college worth it?” And a lot of new problems are derived under this main problem.

At the very beginning,the problem of tuition and debt appears.The film mentioned about Harvard University,the origin of almost all higher education in America nowadays,was imitated by many other universities,which lead to competition between these universities.The result is that they are not what they are suppose to be, and thus tuition is getting higher and higher;moreover,decreases of funding also impact on the increasing of tuition.Many students who can’t afford their tuition but want to get higher education have to apply for Student Loan Debt. According to one statistic in the film,the number of tuition had increased more than any other food or service since 1978.(increased 1120% from 1978-2010) And we know Student Loan Debt has reached $1 trillion in America.

At the same time,many students still can’t  find a job after graduating. It’s a very bad news,especially for who has a loan. Stefanie Gary,a girl with master degree of Hunter College,can’t even find a job cleaning toilets at a local hotel.What she could do to pay her $140,000 debt?It just destroyed her dreams.

At the opposite,many people from wealthy families only choose colleges  for social life.They don’t need to worry about tuition,however,they don’t pay attention on studying but put emphasis on entertainment, or parties.

These examples form a strong contrast,which reminds me of one article” The Tyranny of Meritocracy “written by Lani Guinier.She worried about the testocracy in America nowadays.Students with a better background have more chances entering colleges than those families are poor,because they have more resources and preparations.David Boone’s example  is just an exception in the film. Although he comes from a poor family,he struggled for himself and his family,instead of going astray. Finally, he entered Harvard, and he doesn’t to worry about tuition,since “Harvard  is a colleges among the 1.25% of colleges that proviede ‘full-need’ financial aid,allowing David attend for free.” Not everyone can enter Harvard or top colleges and pay no tuition,indeed,only a few students in the United States can do this.And most of them come from”Elite education”, an area,we,as normal people,can’t reach.

You may ask,”But you can go to colleges which charges no tuition.” And  the film did mention two examples:Deep Spring College and Cooper Union.

Students in Deep Spring College learn self-governance and respect others.It’s like a tiny society with democratic.The important thing is they can communicate with other,ask questions, and make decisions,an idea which Drew Faust, the president of Harvard sustains.According to her,”The aim is giving students the ability of thinking and reasoning and questioning for a lifetime.”

Different from Deep Spring College, Cooper Union faces tremendous deficit and the number is increasing every year. The severe reality made president Jamshed Bharucha has to make the decision of charging tuition from 2014.The decision leads to students’ protest,because Cooper Union has been free for 150 years and they think no tuition in this college is a wind vane to the country to show its educational idea.Charging will only ruin it and lead to adding tuition of other colleges.In spite of students occuping present’s office for 65 days and graduates turned their faces back to the president Bharucha in graduation ceremony,they failed to affect the decision of second vote of the college,that is, Charging tuition.

The protest really impressed me.Students fight for the educational idea of free education.l respect that,but it’s also true Cooper Union is facing enormous deficit.”Nothing is free.”The sentence in the film hit me.l can’t beat back and it seems no answer to decide  which side is wrong and which is right.

Except problems above, another problem is that if you are not going to college,how can you learn if you want to.In Ivory Tower, there are three main ways to this problem:Start business–Every one among 24 students will get $100,000,founded by Dale Stephens,if they drop of college;Self-education–Online education,like MOOC,and it’s free.But the result of cooperation between San Jose State and MOOC is not good,as you can see in the film;“Education Hackerhouse”. People gather and learn living skills,similar with students in Deep Spring College:they can learn from each other.  The difference is these people don’t think it’s worth to go to college.Successful entrepreneurs,like Bill Gates is an example of being successful without finishing college. But l also want to say, successful entrepreneurs are also exceptions.You can’t copy their success.

In my opinion,l can’t assert which way is right or wrong. Different people have different access to success.To most people,getting higher education is the only way to success.You can choose go to college if your family can pay for tuition,or you don’t need to pay tuition because of financial aid, or you can learn by yourself,as long as you are willing to learn.But to those can’t pay tuition and no funding,Student Loan seems the only solution.So l think it’s a prior problem to be solved.


1.Do you think it’s worth to go to college?

2.What’s your opinion of increasing tuition  and competition between colleges nowadays?



5 thoughts on “Is college worth it?”

  1. I really liked your blog because you addressed all the issues and explained them well. It’s sad that we even have to ask ourselves if college is worth it? Without a college education you can barely make a living in the U.S. So the only thing we can do is go to college and earn a degree. Somehow, someway a students or parent figures out how to go to college or figure out how to send their kids to college. But we all know that whether college tuition is seven thousand dollars per semester or per year, it is hard to arrange that kind of money. It is hard for some while others have that kind of money to pay tuition easily. Although mostly people turn towards getting a loan. Which is beneficial to colleges. They get loans which they end up paying even when they’re out of college. Like the girl Stefanie. She had a $140,00 debt which she is trying to pay off by cleaning toilets. There are students like that who struggle and then there are students who pay double the tuition to go attend a party school. I loved what you stated in your blog, “At the opposite,many people from wealthy families only choose colleges for social life. They don’t need to worry about tuition, however, they don’t pay attention on studying but put emphasis on entertainment, or parties.” There are students wasting their money and worrying about their social status instead of worrying about their future. While there are students who have nothing and are worried about nothing but their careers. It is sad to say that colleges have now become a business, instead of a source for kids to study, and become educated. It is all a competition. As stated in the movie, “It is going to be a challenge to keep college doors open. “

  2. The example that you presented about Stefanie Gary really caught my attention. In response to the question about if it’s worth to go to college, I consider that seeing the perspective of Stefanie Gary, I might respond that it’s not worth it, however, I believe that college is an investment to the future, and you go to college for a purpose, to have a better life condition and to find a better job. In this order, it is very important to do some research about the career that you are pursuing, how are job offers for the field, what is the average salary for that degree, and most important, to know how to enter into the field that you chose. I think that if these factors are taken in consideration, many people won’t experience what happened to Stefanie Gary.

  3. Hi Jiewen, I think you had a very interesting point when you were discussing Stephanie Gary’s situation regarding her debt of 140 thousand dollars. Graduating with a masters degree at Hunter College and not being able to get a job not even cleaning toilets at a local hotel. That is disappointing to Stephanie and a lot of people in the same situation. The reality is that if Stephanie would of graduated with a masters from Harvard and had double the amount of loans she would have had a job offer the day after graduation . I know that we all say is it worth it but in reality someone who graduates from an elite school will have a job on the spot because when an employer looks at your resume because of where you graduated from no matter how you got in they will assume you are smart and have skill. That is why there are so many people who push their kids and try so hard from day one to get them in. But I was reading in an article that there was a lawsuit at Harvard because there were Asian students who applied had perfect scores of a 2400 on their SAT’s had done everything they want to see on an application and more but they didn’t get in because of a “Quota”. That is ridiculous someone should get in if they are smart not because they have to meet a certain number.

  4. Hi,Jiewen! You mentioned so many examples in your blog from the film! That’s great. As we know, comparing to long time ago, everything’s price is increasing today,so it makes sense if school increase their tuition a little bit higher; however, the fact is, the tuition goes so much higher and faster than all other kinds of living stuffs! The reason is universities tries to create more new buildings and fun facilities to get more students. They lost the right direction which is Universities should be focus on educations and develop students, they paid too much on other stuffs and they want parents to pay for these stuffs. What’s the problem with these colleges? For me, I prefer to choose a college which is more focus on education, I don’t wanna see colleges waste money on stuffs students don’t really need. Universities should be a place for study, not for play or parties.

  5. I was baffled by the part of the movie that mentioned where many students of wealthy families attend out-of-state schools almost exclusively for the social life surrounding them. Somebody in the movie explained this development as crucial to a schools business and that they basically treat students as consumers that they must keep happy, not necessarily well educated. To answer your first question, I do believe that it is worth it to attend college, especially at a school like the one we are at right now. Queens College is always described as a bargain, which I think is a valid way to describe it. Not taking anything away from its academics, which have been challenging for me so far, but it is so affordable to city residents and engaging that it is without a doubt worth it. I think state schools where tuition is more accessible to residents are a persons best bet for college. I hope that the competition between schools slows down soon, for I believe that it has become so business/money driven that aspiring students will not be able to afford it in the near future. Finally, everybody has their own path in life, so college is not a guaranteed benefit to somebody’s life. If somebody has a ripe idea for a business straight out of high school or even before finishing high school, why wait and allow somebody else to reach the same idea and reap the benefits of it?

Leave a Reply