What’s it Worth? by Kortney Gillett

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Imagine this, you’re eighteen years old and fresh off a summer of part-time work and night time drives consisting of karaoke with your best friends. You’re off to start the next chapter of your life with fresh perspective and a Pinterest board of expectations about how your entire college experience will be. However, those pins don’t fit what you’ve gotten yourself into academic and price wise. Classes don’t seem to interest you which causes you to not succeed as much as you could be and they’re too expensive to take a bunch of different classes of the different majors. It can be quite suffocating not knowing what you want but knowing that it’s supposed to be college, or is it?

We’ve been told our entire lives that college is the “step” in life upon graduation from high school. Whether you heard it from your parents growing up or your teachers at school it almost feels like a forced action that you must take to be, “successful.” Though we aren’t prepared for the actual cost of college with books, rent/board, classes, and the fees no one wanted to mention. So, what if being a part of the dam wasn’t the right choice? Were there other options no one told us about?

This article isn’t about how Oregon State University is a waste of our money; it’s about the actual costs of what we signed up for that some students don’t realize long term. Now don’t get me wrong, for me personally I needed a degree for what I want to do so I completely support college and the entirety of the experience. However, I feel that there are many other options that we aren’t taught about in high school that can be explored instead for those not knowing what they’re looking for or have no idea what they want to do.

An annual study done by CollegeFactual.com it was reported that though Oregon State University’s retention rate is higher than the nationwide and Oregon retention rates at 83% between freshman to sophomore year. Why are these students dropping out though? Where are they going? Could our education system have done a better job at preparing them for college/post-graduation life thus causing them to stay? The same study published that the annual cost of attendance at Oregon State, with no assistance and being an Oregon resident, fell between $15,959 to $44,706. That’s a lot of money to be spending on something you’re not sure you want.

If a student is on the bare minimum of that scale that means they’re going to spend around $64,000 on their degree if completed in four years. Though only 31% of students graduate in the four years as it means you must be full-time a majority of the time. Though the report does say that after six years of education the graduation rate is 63.1% which is more than half. After spending all this money, you kind of want to know the answer to one question, was it all worth it?

I sat down with a former Oregon State Student, Michael, to discuss his opinion on Oregon State’s costs and how they weigh against benefits. Michael, a six-foot handsome guy, entered Oregon State in pursuit of becoming an engineer but changed his major to business his second term. “For me, it wasn’t worth it. My professors didn’t seem to really care about my learning and offered little to no support to my success.” As Michael and I chatted over why he chose to leave the school it became quite obvious that he didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of community or support from Oregon State which led him to another college.

“I chose to go to Western Oregon instead because in all honesty, it’s cheaper and with a smaller student body I got more one on one attention.” Michael said.

However, with all of this discussion about the real worth of Oregon State I began to wonder how other people may have opposite views from mine. With all of the annoyance of random fees, sometimes absent professors, and the rising tuition rates there must be some people who feel the benefits outweigh the costs. When deciding who to talk about these costs with I decided to take out those who receive full ride scholarships or partial scholarships that would make their costs minimal. I really wanted to focus on those who personally pay for school whether out of pocket or with loans, while receiving no assistance from parents or others.

After a lot of thinking I finally thought of someone who I knew from my freshman year who met these criteria. Marissa* is a full-time student who also works evening shifts as a waitress and is heavily involved in her sorority. When on campus Marissa blends in with the rest of us with her dark brown hair up in a bun and commonly wearing leggings and a hoodie just trying to make it through the day. However, unlike some students on campus Marissa is paying for college all on her own between personal loans and working.

When I asked Marissa how she does it she responded, “Honestly, it’s hard. Most days I am EXHAUSTED, but I love this school and all the friends I have made and all of the opportunities it has given me.”

Marissa continued to express genuine happiness in discussing that she loves being constantly busy and feels that it has helped her strive as a student and improved her overall as a person. Between tuition, rent, and other bills I found it incredibly interesting to find someone who said that she didn’t mind and that it all felt “worth it” to her. Currently she is an education major and plans on being an elementary school teacher upon graduation next spring. Though as a teacher Marissa is aware that it will take her a lot longer to pay her loans back where as if she was an engineer or other science based major she would be making a larger income.

Personally, I like to think I chose a primarily safe major with being in communications and minoring in writing. I have the potential of doing an unlimited amount of jobs spanning anywhere from human resources to public relations. As a safe degree I will also be almost (key word almost for our generation) be guaranteed a job in my field once I graduate in the spring or at least something very similar to what I am hoping to do. With an average annual income of $67,000 a year (according to Payscale.co) for communications majors I feel pretty safe to say that I know will be able to make a living and pay my loans off as fast as possible.

So, is Oregon State worth it? Well, at the end of the day that truly seems to depend on the person, the desired major, and how long they want to be in school for. If you were to be in pursuit of a career as an engineer or doctor, then absolutely. If you’re looking for a close and intimate campus community then maybe a smaller school would be a better fit. However, If you were to just be looking for “the college experience” of binge drinking $10 vodka and eating stale pizza then, maybe.

“It all just depends on the person and where they feel they can be their best self now and in the future.” -Marissa

*Names were changed for privacy of interviewee

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