College is tough. Many students, I’m sure, have felt the urge to toss a textbook or two over the Tutt Library balcony out of frustration, or yell loudly in the otherwise quiet Olin Hall. Though I am being critical of the conversation on dropping out of college, the purpose of this article isn’t to imply that college is easy or that college is for everyone. Rather, my aim is to bring last week’s piece “Drop out of College? Great Idea!” into a larger conversation about privilege.
Because Colorado College’s culture is shaped by conspicuous privilege, and values success so highly, the factors that might contribute to a student’s decision to drop out are often invisible on campus. Rather than restlessness or boredom, most students who decide to drop out are pushed by necessity and desperation.
It has been repeatedly shown that campus racial climate has been linked to academic success and college retention rates. In light of the horrendous email and the growing list of CC’s racial injustices that are either new events or old traumas just now coming to light, the racial climate at CC can be tense—if not outright inhospitable for students of color. According to the Chicago Tribune, graduation rates suffer when predominantly white schools don’t provide a supportive environment that fosters academic success for minority students.
Still, colleges often place the burden on students to reconcile the unwelcoming environment with their academic success. Therefore, CC’s repeated racial failings, lack of professors of color, inadequate funding of the race, ethnicity, and migration studies department, and tendency to try to cover up dissatisfaction and quell unrest, could all be legitimate reasons that inform a student’s decision to drop out.
Taken beyond the scope of CC, it is important to note that we do not live in a meritocracy and dropping out of college has more dire consequences for some than others. The workforce is riddled with discrimination and capped by a glass ceiling so thick it’s almost opaque. Discrimination is inarguably demonstrated by the statistics: according to National Women’s Law Center, compared to a man’s dollar, all women make approximately 80 cents, black women make 65 cents, and Native American women make 57 cents. As such, women and people of color—especially women of color—must be over-educated and over-qualified for their occupational field. Thus, dropping out of college can be unevenly limiting.
So, when The Catalyst prints the quote, “Dropping out allows for the freedom to explore your abilities and possibilities,” I think it’s necessary to follow up, and acknowledge that dropping out allots unequal opportunity and grants freedom to a select few (rolling my eyes at you, Mark Zuckerberg).
It’s also worth noting that there are a multitude of reasons students drop out, many of which aren’t discussed in this article. Additionally, as much as alternative and off-the-grid living, such as “van life” and “dirt-bagging” is upheld as a blissful paradigm of post-CC life, for most students, this isn’t a feasible reality. Many students must enter the work force immediately to begin paying off accrued college debt, and prospects of getting a high-paying job benefit greatly from a college degree.
Additionally, I want to clarify the previously cited statistic, “53 percent of college graduates are currently jobless or unemployed”—53 percent of college graduates under the age of 25 are unemployed. The unemployment rate for college grads older than 25, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, is 2.5 percent—which is much more promising than 53 percent unemployment.
College education is a gift. That is not to say CC is easy to get into, or that many students and families have not made real and exacting sacrifices for this college education. But, in theory, it should afford us a chance of a degree that holds some clout in the job market.
If you don’t like every detail of your major, or are frustrated by lecture classes, or think the grass just might be greener on the non-academic side—maybe reflect on your positionality before using those reasons as justification of dropping out. Consider changing majors, designing your own major, taking time off, transferring from CC, or graduating and pursing an exciting career that makes the world a better place. And, if your mind is on the topic of CC’s shortcomings, think of actions you can take to make CC a less stifling and more welcoming place for all students.