College education is a privilege often taken for granted

By Matt Pasquini

This year, I made a New Year’s resolution to not take my college education for granted. 

Very rarely do we settle down in our lives to put things into perspective. Too often, many university students, including myself, take our education for granted. 

We dread waking up for our 8 a.m. classes and in many cases, we don’t even go. We even sometimes fantasize at the idea of being able to go to college, but opting out of the school part. A bit counterintuitive, don’t you think?

But let’s be realistic. We’re at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign! (Also the Princeton Review’s No. 3 party school for 2013-14)! With our bustling bar scene and a Greek house on every block, the social scenes here thrive.  

And let us not forget that these are supposed to be the best four years of our lives. With a majority of students ranging from 18 to 22 years old living in a town for college students ran by college students, one can only imagine the opportunities available that can make us lose focus on what we really came here for. 

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With the start of the spring semester right around the corner, I find myself thinking about ways to combat distractions and focus on the No. 1 reason I chose to attend a university — to receive an education.

There are a few things I’ve thought about that help put my education into perspective and allow me to visualize what a benefit and privilege it is to have access to such a fine institution of higher learning.

One thing I remind myself is that my education is going to have a profound impact on my personal future in regards to my ability to secure a job and earn a decent wage. 

According to a Labor Department report released in the spring, the unemployment rate for college graduates in April was 3.9 percent, compared to 7.5 percent for the work force as a whole.

And the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2012, the median weekly wage of a person who has received a bachelor’s degree ($1,066 per week) is about 63.5 percent greater than someone who only has only obtained a high school diploma ($652 per week).

A college education in itself suggests a lower chance of unemployment and an even higher possibility of being financially secure. And what you do with that degree can propel you even further than the statistics. 

I also need to realize that my education is going to have an impact on the larger society I’m part of. 

Education is the cornerstone of society, and educated citizens are essential to having a functioning society where people not only learn, develop and challenge social and cultural norms, but also develop the human capital and technical and non-technical skills that contribute to the economic wellness of a nation.

But let’s not forget that in many countries, and to an extent in the United States, higher education is reserved for the elite; attending college is a privilege not everyone has. 

Higher education is highly sought after all over the world, but not everyone gets the chance. 

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, there are 250 million primary aged children who do not know how to read and write and another 200 million aged 15 to 24 who have not even completed a primary education.

It’s easy to get caught up in the fast pace of life that exists in Champaign-Urbana. While we complain about having to go to class in the morning, there are others who dream about it. These are unfortunate and inconvenient truths, but it’s ignorant to deny the realities of so many around the world. 

I urge all university students to take a step back and conceptualize the realities of the benefits and privileges that coincide with receiving a college education.

I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but this is one worth making.

Matt is a sophomore in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewPasquini.