Well, here we are.

The last day of classes.

It took a while to get here, didn’t it?  And yet…and yet, it all went by so fast.

The last day of classes.

The end of the semester always puts me in a contemplative mood.  I guess endings in general do that.  It’s not as big an ending as the end of one’s degree is, or even the end of the year, but it still gets me thinking.

And for me, as someone who graduated once and then came back, it got me thinking about the reasons we come to university in the first place.

For many people, if you ask them what they want from their degree, they’ll probably just say “a job,” or something like that.  And yet…in today’s work world, a university degree is, in many ways, less valuable than ever before.  Most people who’ve tried to find a job after graduation know this, and for those of you about to graduate it’s an unfortunate reality.  Of course, that’s not to say a degree is completely useless when looking for work – it isn’t – but it doesn’t have the power it once had.  Unless you’re graduating into one of a few specific fields, your degree is less valuable than it’s ever been.

To make matters worse, the Alberta government recently slashed funding for post-secondary institutions.  It’s not like we didn’t see this coming – I mean, did anyone really expect Jason Kenney and the Conservatives to not cut educational funding? – but this still means the tuition freeze we had under the Notley government is gone.  We can fully expect our tuition to go up over the next few years.

With this in mind – the now-set-to-climb tuition rate, and the lowering economic value of a University degree – I have to ask: why are we even still here?

Now, don’t get me wrong: there are many valid answers to this question (if there weren’t, well…Augustana wouldn’t exist, now would it?), but the one that resonates most with me personally is the experience.  Personally, I love school.  I’ve always loved school, right from when I was a kid.  And over the ten semesters I’ve been here, Augustana has become like home to me.  The small class sizes are great, too; they provide an opportunity to learn from your instructor on a more one-on-one level than you can at a larger institution.  And that’s not to mention all the transferrable skills I’ve picked up from my time here; things like working for the Dag, working for the writing centre and joining the choir (among other potential extracurricular activities) all look good on a resume.  Not just that, though; they all provide a rich, fulfilling experience that classes alone just wouldn’t.

Yes, we’re here primarily to earn a degree.  But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that our time here is about far, far more than just earning that degree, especially considering the times we live in now.

Of course, that’s just my experience.  Every other student, teacher, and staff member will have their own experience.  And so, this holiday season, I challenge you, whoever you are, to think about what drew you here to Augustana, what keeps you here…and what, if anything, makes your experience here more than just a degree.

(Originally published December 11, 2019)


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