A University Education: Priceless

I know this is a blog about student finances, but some days I feel the need to emphasize that there are many things whose worth can never be fully represented by a dollar figure.

Take a great, varied, deep and nuanced education, for example.

I’m one of those lucky people that can say I have been fortunate enough to be able to undergo an education like that.

Whether it was:

  • My experiences living away from home while I studied at Queen’s university for my liberal arts degree
  • Or the personal growth I gained while studying creative writing at the University of Guelph-Humber
  • Or even the multi-disciplinary education I’m currently receiving in all aspects of forest conservation in the Masters of Forest Conservation program at the University of Toronto

my experiences have been absolutely priceless!

Which is good, because those degrees cost me a significant amount of money. However, measuring their worth is simply not possible by looking at what they cost and comparing it to the salaries I’ve earned in my various jobs so far, or what I will earn in the future. You simply can’t put a price on the development of an active, engaged, informed and thoughtful member of society. I can’t put a price on the worth of the personal experiences I’ve had throughout these three degrees. And I can’t even begin to tell you how much they have and will continue to impact me and what I do with my life in extremely positive and integral ways.

I say all this in light of a recent trend identified in the media (last week in Maclean’s magazine, for example) of young people reporting their chief motivation for attending university to be securing a good job. Undoubtedly, a university education makes you more employable, and it was certainly part of the motivation for me. But up until my current degree in forest conservation, I actually went to school to develop my intellectual life, to “learn how to think” as many liberal arts educators put it, to communicate effectively and approach the world with an open, intelligent mind. Learning how to write well, develop an argument, speak clearly and compellingly, and see all dimensions of a given problem or situation, are the most applicable (and coincidentally marketable) skills I have. And I got them from my liberal arts education.

I want to be clear about something: I haven’t continued to go back to school after completing my BA in literature because I was unable to find a job that paid me well and that could have turned into a stable, satisfying career. In fact I left just such a job to do my current degree.

I have and continue to go to school because it’s a venue that gives me the latitude to think deeply and widely about issues that are important to me, and with which I want to engage in my working life. I went back because it was the perfect venue for me to further develop myself into the professional and person I want to be. And I view it as a privilege that I’ve been able to do so.

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