College begins at the tail end of 18 years old, and the average college student is in their twenties. At this age, we drive our own cars, make our own decisions on who should represent us in government, and live on our own. We are tried as adults. A significant portion of us manage our own finances and have traveled solo to other countries. And every single one of us makes decisions that will determine our future as we study for the future disciplines that, in only a few years, will provide for ourselves, the families we start, and the mortgages of our picket-fence house.
Yet, while the rest of the world may see a twenty-year-old on the sidewalk or shopping for groceries in the store as an adult, those that make up the college bubble treat us more and more like children or prisoners, and the result is a suffocating environment.
The exorbitant amount of restrictions placed on students continue to grow over time, and all of them add extra burden. As a freshman, staying in a dorm is absolutely required with no exemption, even if a student argues they would feel more comfortable and mentally secure in their own chosen living arrangements. Cars are also often forbidden, severely restricting freedom of transportation and forcing students to travel in less-safe manners, such as walking or using public transport. Semester-long, required orientation classes waste time and money with bogus, elementary topics such as “time management,” “note-taking,” and “what a liberal education means to me.” And, at present, students face ridiculously severe consequences if they do not adhere to a strict attendance policy in regard to classes.
Once attending lectures is no longer a choice, the task becomes a significantly less pleasant experience and eliminates an important way students once navigated the college system. Previously, students could free up blocks of time by missing a lecture every so often to juggle an over-crowded schedule that doesn’t always fit into a 15-hour day. Or, if a lecture was review, a student could redirect that time to more efficient endeavors. But more importantly, if a person was forced to take a class they already had knowledge in, he or she could simply show up for the exam and pass the course — getting the deserved credit. If a professor did not teach a subject well, students could simply study at home, and attendance numbers would set a needed standard for that professor’s ability to educate. On the other side, students who weren’t serious about attending college never wasted their peers’ time.
But now, it is not enough to pay for classes. Our presence must be monitored, and we must be careful to sign the attendance sheets passed down in every session or we will be docked points — even though we pay for these classes.
As college students, we pay for everything. We pay our tuition, obviously, but we also pay for our books. We pay for housing and food. We even pay the equivalent of gym memberships, filed under a recreational fee that a good number of us never even use. We pay for everything, down to the sheets of paper in the library.
If colleges are our keepers, then why don’t they so generously provide for some of the costs of being a student? It seems to me that what universities truly appreciate is not the meaningful prestige that lies in being a place of higher learning, but the way one can take advantage of young adults who are willing to pay — and be treated — however in an attempt to secure a better future.