The Myth of the 4-Year University

By Alex Lei

Four-year universities are notoriously expensive, even after taking scholarships and financial aid into account. This is a problem because people understand that, in modern America, social mobility is incredibly difficult without some form of higher education. What potential students might not realize is how a useful degree other than a traditional bachelor’s can be. Since college is typically advertised as a four-year program, students will end up working towards a degree that might not be wanted or needed.

The reality for some people is that going to a four-year institution may not be the right option. Many of people might be more successful at a community college, find a job closer to their skills at a trade school or even want just an associate degree. If all of these other forms of higher education are also available to students, then a four-year degree as a necessity is clearly a myth.

Many people go into college right out of high school with no idea what they want to study, which is not a bad thing. College is, after all, the perfect place to figure out what to do with one’s future. By the time most individuals figure out what they want out of a degree, they could be looking at a four-year program after already investing one or more years of school to figure out their professional goals. For people who can afford it, the expense is fine. But if we’re talking about loans, the total will add up incredibly fast. On average MSU students who find jobs in their fields only paying around 6.4 percent of their income on loans. This percentage is not bad, but the reality is that a lot of students aren’t going to be hired right out of college, and many of those who do are going to end up in low-paying internships.

A significant number of people don’t even graduate, and as of last year, only 49.6 percent of students who studied at MSU even graduated, less than half of those with a four-year degree and the rest with either taking six years or earning an associate degree. This percentage is not great evidence to support a four-year degree as best option for some people. However, something can be said for MSU’s acceptance rate in regards to this issue.

The high acceptance rate and relatively low cost of admission leads to certain individuals attending MSU who might not be able to afford college or could have been more successful elsewhere. When new students end up spending a year or two at MSU, they discover that a four-year institution isn’t right for them and are now stuck having paid for some education that they’re not going to use and not enough education to benefit from the perks of “having a degree.” Student loans add up fast, and if you don’t finish college it’s a pretty expensive mistake.

Students from low income backgrounds are impacted more by these loan debts than those who come from affluent backgrounds. By making college a financial institution, it has to be sold. In selling college to as many students as possible, MSU opens the door for students to be negatively financially impacted. Considering higher education has become such a necessity in pushing forward in the modern job market, it shouldn’t be a marketed like a product. When somebody looks at higher education, they should consider that there are more options than just a four-year degree.