There isn’t much I remember from Finance 101.
I remember I took it at 9 a.m. on Friday mornings my first semester of freshman year. I sat in the middle–not too close to the front and not too close to the back. I remember the student who always sat in the back row and slept through the lecture and I remember the one in the front row who was constantly browsing the internet.
There’s only one lesson I truly remember. Our professor stood at the front of the class, explaining that to sit in the seat we were in, to listen to him speak for 50 minutes a week, we were paying over $600. And I remember, at barely 19, thinking I was far from graduating. Far from needing to know about the finances of the real world.
Like I said, I don’t remember much of Finance 101. But I got an A. And without the class, without that one credit hour, I wouldn’t be graduating on Saturday.
I am graduating with 149 of these credit hours. This means I spent almost 2,000 hours in classes during my time at Ball State. I spent countless more hours outside of the classroom working toward my degree. Was it worth it?
It would be impossible to remember every detail I learned in every class at Ball State. That’s what I think about when I ask myself this question.
But the whole of college–the opportunities of four years in this tiny town I often complained about–expanded beyond the hours spent in classes like Finance 101.
College is where I first got my heart broken. Where I traveled to Italy and Hungary and Slovakia and Cuba. It’s where I fell asleep in the library and ran to class with wet hair. It’s where I made and lost friends. It’s where I cried myself to sleep and lost socks in the dorm room washers. It’s where I both procrastinated and focused. It’s where I became a leader and ran an award-winning magazine.
It’s where I spent a long, hot, summer in an empty town commuting to my internship at The Saturday Evening Post. It’s where I led a campus-wide discussion with the acting president of the university.
College is an experience. A whole. I can’t sit here and tell you it was worth every minute I sat in every class. I didn’t feel worth it when I got grades I thought I didn’t deserve, and got four hours of sleep a night to get everything done. Or when I rolled my eyes on another Saturday and said I hate it here. I complained about Muncie almost every day over the summer. This semester, I spent a month researching the ways Ball State impacts Muncie, and now, I have a whole new respect for this town. Actually, I’m going to miss it.
As editor-in-chief of Ball Bearings, I chose what topics we would focus on this year. Knowing that more graduates than ever are in debt and that I would be graduating this May, I chose to spend all semester exploring the cost of college. While the cost is oftentimes financial, there are other costs. The mental cost. The physical cost. The cost of being a parent, or an employee, or a student who can’t graduate in four years.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from five months of research on the cost of college, it’s that it is worth it. Having a degree will earn someone on average $17,000 a year more than someone without a degree. It’s worth it to sit through classes and study for tests and work on immersive student experiences. My college experience isn’t the same as everyone’s. I’m privileged to have had the opportunities I did. Many can’t afford college and others pay tens of thousands of dollars.
But tonight, less than a week before graduation, I am drawn to the little moments. Like these: I am sitting on the porch and the wind is 65 degrees and I am surrounded by my friends and studying for exams. I can’t help but think, this is college. These are tiny moments that were part of the whole experience. Four years of tests and stress and growth. Four years of classes and snow storms and speeches and fresh, fall days.
It was worth it.