My grandfather strongly believed in getting an education and encouraged me to go to college. In his generation, an education meant having the means to be successful in the world.
It was not just my grandfather; everyone told me that a college degree was the way to establish a successful future. I followed their advice. However, things did not turn out as promised.
After receiving my degree from UTSA in English with honors, I have struggled to find a career that matters. Similarly, I see many in my well-educated generation stuck in dead-end jobs in retail, call centers, or slinging lattes. Our degrees did not equate to a future.
I'm not singling out UTSA. They are doing what all other universities are doing to try and stay competitive and recruit students, but nationwide, higher-ed is getting it all wrong.
In retrospect, college was not student first; it was institution first. We were required to take classes that were irrelevant to possible future careers. We were told this was to make students more “well-rounded.” We borrowed massive amounts of money in order to pay a rising tuition rate to support fancy campuses, athletics, salaries and other fees. We bought a degree that has been dumbed down over time in order to push more paying students through the system, yet our degrees didn’t provide skills needed to perform in the adult world.
The generation of my grandfather and mine are very different. It is still important to get an education, but the university may not be the right answer for everyone. This realization has made many people like me very angry, especially when my alma mater continues to call me night after night asking for donations.
What’s next for me, though, is not to continue trying to make use of the degree I received but to learn new skills for a meaningful career.
Through the network at Geekdom, I have begun to teach myself how to be a computer programmer and recently received a scholarship to attend the nine-week Codeup programming bootcamp in February. Through these avenues, I'm confident that I will find the job that I want to do earning a great salary. That being said, becoming a programmer is not all about the money; it’s about gaining a new literacy in order to stay relevant in the job market.
It’s also about building things that matter because they make life easier for others. I want to do things so I can sit back and say, “I did that. I built that.”
In the end, the same leg up that an education would have given my grandfather is the one I will get by learning a skills outside of the conventional education institutions.
Omar Quimbaya is a native of San Antonio, Texas, and a graduate of the University of Texas at San Antonio. He currently freelances as a social media consultant, writing blogs, newsletters, and social posts for different companies. He is teaching himself how to be a computer programmer. Omar received a scholarship to attend the Codeup programming bootcamp in February and counts it and others as clients for his social media consulting. He is currently on a plane to China to get married (this time in a Chinese ceremony) and visit his in-laws.