It probably wasn't that harsh, but essentially that was the only place my family could afford. As it turned out, my family didn't have to afford anything for my college (except some shelter and electricity) since I earned a four-year scholarship that paid for my education. That's what you get for being a nerd in high school.
I bring this up because I have thought a bit about the nature of higher education with all the news this week about budget cuts at the University of Nevada, Reno. After I graduated college in 1998 and the years passed, I was a little upset that my eyes weren't opened to more college options. There are a lot of universities and a lot of scholarships out there, and if I could get one of them, how many others might I have gotten? I bring this up not for the issue of money but for the issue of options. To the students at UNR who are worried about their institution going down the tubes, I say this: leave. A mass exodus will send a clear message to state leaders — much clearer than a bunch of letters that they will acknowledge on camera and then forget about. And to potential incoming freshman or transfer students, I say this: look elsewhere. For both, there are plenty of other options out there that would be happy to take your (or your parents') hard-earned dollars and actually use them to educate you. Unfortunately, it appears the state of Nevada has a lot of other problems to worry about in the here and now without worrying about your future or the state's.
Of course, switching colleges is not an easy prospect and it might be more practical for many to stay and finish as the walls come crashing down around their mortarboards. Those who make it out with their majors intact will be the lucky ones. But for those who decide to abandon the sinking ship, keep in mind that nobody said it would be easy. When you received that high school diploma, the days of guaranteed education ended. The debate over the quality of that K-12 education will be left for another day because it opens a whole new can of annelids. Plowing through countless books and essays and hours of homework is already brutal and college students signed up for that willingly. If the college goes to hell, finding a new one is a huge rock in an already bumpy road but it is navigable. Ask anybody who has lost their job because the business shut down.
Which brings me to the nature of higher education. The world has always offered technical or trade education for those who are not cut out for lots of classes about philosophy or math that they will never use but that make them more "well-rounded" individuals. I used to think this route was for losers who couldn't hack these other subjects, but nowadays I am seeing very intelligent teens opting for such an education at places like Washoe County's Academy of Arts, Careers & Technology (AACT). These young people are streamlining their high school educations to get them prepared for at least the start of a career. Is that so different from the "entry-level" job most new college graduates must accept?
If these students decide at some point they want to read Nietzsche or learn about the history of jazz (one of the most grueling classes I ever took), there are public libraries stocked with useless information to make them more fun at parties. Let's just hope we don't lose all the libraries to the same budget cuts as the universities and colleges.
After being in the work force for four or five years, I thought I was somehow better than my co-workers who did not have college degrees. Since then, I have learned better. I have realized that if they came to work at a company, dedicated themselves to learning the job and were subsequently promoted to positions of higher responsibility and pay, they had earned it every bit as much as I earned my bachelor's degree. One of my best friends became the sports editor of a small newspaper in Southern California with just a little bit of college, several years of time learning on the job and a lot of dedication. He is just a little bit older than I am and I consider us to be peers in the journalism field. We both pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps, we just happened to be wearing different boots.
I hope for the sake of all the students at UNR that their efforts pay off and their academic programs are saved. Graduation day is one of the proudest days in life. No one plans to enter a college and have it go belly up in a bad economy, but if it does, don't despair. The same dedication and hard work that are getting you through college can still be used with some ingenuity and exploration of all the options of life. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to renew my library card.