It was a foregone conclusion that before I graduated high school, I chose to go to university. This was the choice that was right for me; I was interested in economics and I wanted to further my studies, earn an advanced degree and get a decent job that would hopefully align with my core beliefs and values.
This is the route that many people who are reading this have taken, and all of these cases are unique in some way. As these cases are unique and up to each individual, so are the cases in which students graduating high school choose not to attend university, but instead enter the workforce, take a gap year or enter into an internship, among other things.
It is alarming that there exists a trend of legislation seeking to do away with that freedom to choose. Both the city of Chicago and the state of New Mexico have proposed legislation that would force high school students to come up with a post-graduation plan before receiving their diploma. Common choices among the two pieces of legislation include attending college or university, entering into an internship or enlisting in the military.
Their supposed “goal” is to increase the high school graduation rate — New Mexico in particular has the second-lowest rate in the country. But if that is indeed the supposed goal, it’s extremely questionable whether it is the right solution to this problem.
Outright forcing kids to go to college may raise eyebrows on its own, but with the growing cost of attendance, textbooks, room and board and all of the other expenses, it is simply ridiculous. Per the College Board’s Annual Survey of Colleges, the average tuition and fees of two- and four-year public colleges and private nonprofit colleges have steadily risen, with four-year public schools in particular tripling from $3,190 in the 1987-88 academic year to $9,970 in the 2017-18 academic year, and private nonprofit tuition and fees more than doubling from $15,160 to $34,740 in the same period.
As a result, college enrollment in the United States has been dropping every year since 2010. This makes it clear that college is rapidly becoming out of reach for marginalized communities. With the number of unpaid internships rising, this requirement is no better, especially since they do not result in job offers.
However, the most onerous option is military enlistment. It seems to have been stuck in there as the method of last resort for the person who cannot afford college or get into an internship program as a way to bolster the military-industrial complex. The fact that this option exists at a time when this country is tired of endless hegemonic war — the person’s own opinions about the military, the country or the war be damned — is ludicrous.
If passed, I see this being one of the only options available to marginalized communities who aren’t served in both educational and political systems to begin with. This isn’t a good-faith measure to build plans for these people — it is a method of conscription and class warfare.
Mandatory post-graduation plans will fail spectacularly — a sentiment that is increasingly damning when one realizes there are other methods of increasing graduation rates, namely funding all school districts uniformly instead of tying funding to property taxes. This would ensure that all students in all areas receive a baseline of better quality education and that a student’s ZIP code will not determine their future for them.
If these plans have to go through, they will fail without untying school funding to taxes, making public colleges and universities tuition-free and fee-subsidized, removing the “option” of conscription and demanding paid internships; hopefully, though, these plans will be stopped, and this point will be moot.
Jacob Hanna is a sophomore majoring in economics.