New Mexico Lawmakers Want to Force High Schoolers to Apply for College, and That’s Dumb

(Photo: Yanlev/Dreamstime)
New Mexico should focus on making college actually worth the investment.

New Mexico lawmakers have introduced a bill that would force high-school juniors to apply for college or prove that they have other approved post-graduate plans, and it’s honestly one of the most idiotic ideas I’ve heard in a long time.

The bill is sponsored by Republican representative Nate Gentry and Democratic senator Daniel Ivey-Soto. It makes exceptions for those who could prove they would instead be enlisting in the military, attending a vocational program, or getting a job, apprenticeship, or internship.

According to an article in USA Today, the bill is an attempt to reverse declining college enrollment in the state, which was down by nearly 14 percent in 2016 from 2010 levels. My take? It should be none of the state’s business what students decide to do after high school, especially since most of them are literally actual adults by the time they graduate.

Honestly, there are a lot of reasons why this is stupid. For one thing, we now live in a society where you can be a very dumb YouTube star and earn lots of money and fame, despite being painfully uneducated. Who’s to say that one of these kids ain’t going to be the next one of those?

All joking aside, requiring students to make a choice about their post-graduate plans so early could lead some of them to make the wrong decisions. The truth is, not every kid knows exactly what they want to do when they grow up when they’re a high-school junior, and that’s perfectly okay. Maybe some of them know that they don’t know, and they’d like to spend a year or so trying to figure it out before saddling themselves with life-altering amounts of debt. All too often, students feel rushed into deciding on a career right out of high school for the sake of “going to college,” only to realize two years later that they’d decided to study something that doesn’t even interest them after all.

I understand that New Mexico is trying to increase falling enrollment rates, but how about this for an idea: Focus on making college actually worth going to, rather than trying to force people to attend something that they don’t see as being worth it.

The “investment” in college — or in more “education” in general — is not always worth the price. The debt can hamper your future options, both personally and professionally, and you can learn and gain experience in so many other ways that don’t cost so much money. Personally, I did go to college right after high school, but after I graduated, I turned down a chance to go to Columbia University’s journalism school because I knew it would be too hard to pay back the loans. A lot of people called me dumb for doing this, but it was probably the smartest decision that I’ve ever made. Not having that extra debt allowed me to support myself through waitressing (and Boston Market bathroom-cleaning) while I learned reporting and broadcasting skills for free through unpaid internships. It allowed me to accept my first broadcasting job — a position as an airborne traffic reporter in Los Angeles that paid $15 an hour — because I didn’t have to worry about paying those loans. In fact, if I had “furthered my education” (like almost everyone had told me to do), then I’d have been too deep in debt to accept any entry-level positions in the journalism field. I probably wouldn’t have wound up in journalism at all.

For some students, jumping right into college or a job right out of high school is the right move. For others, it’s better to wait awhile.

I understand that not everyone’s story is going to be exactly like mine — and I am glad that I personally received my undergraduate degree — but the fact that everyone’s path is so different is exactly what makes this bill so wrong.

For some students, jumping right into college or a job right out of high school is the right move. For others, it’s better to wait awhile. Some people might actually be content living out the rest of their lives in their grandma’s basement playing video games, and honestly, as long as it’s okay with grandma, then that should be allowed, too. We have all kinds of freedoms in this country, and the freedom to be a loser happens to be one of them (I just shouldn’t have to pay for it). We are a country that was founded on the basis of individual rights and freedom, and these legislators in New Mexico really need to remember that.


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