Why Undergrad Degrees Should Offer Trade Training

Students who do better in life post-college are more likely to support that college.

Why Undergrad Degrees Should Offer Trade Training
Photo by Eugenio Mazzone on Unsplash

The current model of education in our society presents many arbitrary roadblocks on the highway of self-betterment. I’ve long argued that education at all levels should be completely free — all resources subsidized by the society as a whole, for the betterment of society as a whole. But how might current education systems might alter their operations in order to present more options to their students? What sort of changes can be made to practical ends within the terrible system we currently have?

Let’s teach students a trade.

My undergraduate college was from a little private liberal arts institution devoted to giving students a well-rounded education and a strong moral and philosophical groundwork for active participation in the world. That college’s mission has long been to sidestep as many of the arbitrary barriers to education as possible; to present students with the chance at an education that matters. Unfortunately, as a private institution, they also ended up leaving their students burdened with high debt.

But in all my time attending that institution, I rarely felt as if I were being prepared to tackle the immense and unjust systems that exist — in a way that accepts that those systems exist and might have an undue negative effect on me, personally. I did not feel like my undergrad went out of its way to offer its students a means to provide for themselves after graduation. I sought out the best of what they did offer, and worked as an editor for the college literary magazine, but that was a path open only to a limited selection of us students.

The point is that undergrad programs, all undergrad programs, should provide students with skills in a trade.

My undergraduate program was a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing — a degree not exactly well-respected by society’s current rubric. I’ve managed to do a lot with that degree, from becoming a member of the Democracy Café advisory board, to completing an MFA (in the same subject, naturally), to working as editor for numerous indie publications. Now, I support myself through my writing, but doing that required stepping outside the standard offering from the college — indeed, a large reason why I can work, now, as a writer, is because of the good people I met and friends I made during my time working for that publication.

Great that it worked out for me! But it’s something my undergrad degree should have incorporated officially, not merely for my sake, but for the sake of that institution as well. After all, students who do better in life post-college are more likely to support that college in multiple ways later in life.

What do you wish your educational institution had provided, or would provide (if you currently attend)? Clearly, the best thing we could do is enact legal measures to secure low-cost education from all universities and wipe student debt (for both publican and private debt for all students), but what else can we fight for, perhaps within our own institutions, that could change lives?

Hi there! I’m Odin Halvorson, a librarian, independent scholar, film fanatic, fiction author, and tech enthusiast. If you like my work and want to support me, please consider becoming a paid subscriber for as little as $2.50 a month!

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