• The Vindicator

College, Money and the Burden of Passion

Written by: Kristina Markulin

Illustrated by: Emma Splete

CSU student Christina McIntosh expresses her fears concerning the financial instability brought on by college — a burden that threatens to persist beyond graduation.


Christina McIntosh’s academic history is long. Like many students, she has switched programs throughout her college career. The past three years have taken her from psychology to sociology to moving three buildings over for computer science, just to end up back in psychology.

With mounting student debt and grad school ahead of her, McIntosh had one major concern: money.

McIntosh’s reason for shuffling majors is something all students must consider when going into college. With mounting student debt and grad school ahead of her, McIntosh had one major concern: money.


“Growing up, financial stability and financial stress was something I was constantly surrounded by,” McIntosh said.


McIntosh has been at odds with herself in her college career. Her passion for psychology reaches back to her high school days. But a psychology major is often a heavy financial burden —one with which every student who enters the field has to grapple. For McIntosh, the burden was beginning to take its toll.


Psychology requires years of study — in order to get a job that pays well in the field, students usually have to continue for a master’s degree. However, that means more years in college, more money spent on tuition and more student loans to cover the cost of those years. Computer science, on the other hand, is a field that pays well, even with only a bachelor’s degree. It’s a profession that often leads to ample jobs and financial stability.

“Some things are so undervalued you can’t guarantee food on your table,” she said. “No degree is worthless in my eyes. A degree is a degree, but the thing is, degrees are valued differently in society.”

“Society operates on how we value these different degrees, and that’s why I changed,” McIntosh said. “I felt that for the amount of physical work I was going to be putting into my degree, I didn’t think I would have a stable life,”


But there was one small issue.


“When I got to computer science,” she continued, “that burden of passion came back. And I went back to psychology because I couldn’t handle doing something I didn’t love.”


She’s not alone. Unease grows among American Millennials and Gen Zs around college — more specifically, college debt. Students now more than ever need to carefully consider their financial position as they decide what professional field they want to enter.


“Not every degree is guaranteed to pay the money needed to pay off that debt,” she said.

Psychology isn’t the only field plagued by this. Many professions are undervalued in society, and individuals who enter those fields struggle as a result. Job opportunities, post-graduation pay, student debt: these all compound to make surviving more difficult.

“Some things are so undervalued you can’t guarantee food on your table,” she said. “No degree is worthless in my eyes. A degree is a degree, but the thing is, degrees are valued differently in society.”

She provided an example, saying “the career opportunities in a bachelor’s for electrical engineering is a lot higher than the career opportunities of someone with an English bachelor’s.”


According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for someone with an English bachelor's degree is $52,425 per year, while the average annual salary those with an electrical engineering bachelor's will receive is $81,173. That's nearly a $30,000 difference, which means the world when someone is trying to pay off student loans.


Despite jobs in these fields paying less, people are still drawn to them. They don’t pursue jobs in these fields for the money, but because they genuinely enjoy their work. However, because these jobs aren’t held in high esteem, those in the field struggle.


“Some things are so undervalued you can’t guarantee food on your table,” she said. “No degree is worthless in my eyes. A degree is a degree, but the thing is, degrees are valued differently in society.”


The issue is bigger than one student or one college: it spans the United States. The idea of going to college and not being able to support yourself burdens the minds of not just McIntosh, but most students who enter undervalued fields. College then becomes less about enrichment and more of an obligation, and an expensive one at that.


“Knowledge is never something that’s supposed to feel like a burden,” she said. “You should appreciate knowledge and the opportunity to gain knowledge, not regret taking the time to invest in it.”


McIntosh is glad she’s back in psychology; it’s a field she enjoys and is passionate about. She still plans on continuing to graduate school and has expressed that she’d probably still end up pursuing an advanced degree if her financial situation were different.


“If I was walking out of CSU right now with no debt, I would still go to graduate school, because I would be comfortable studying to do something I want to do, with the solace that I wouldn’t be in debt possibly beyond my death.”


But after all of this, we have to consider; is college worth it? McIntosh still thinks it is, but not necessarily the way it is now.


"I think that everybody should have the chance to gain knowledge and pursue intelligence for as long as they live and as long as they want. But knowledge should not come at a price that isn't just dollar signs," she says, "but every type of stability you have."


"Because then who wants it?"


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