Sometimes You Have to Teach Yourself

Magazine titles are designed to push buttons. In “Is College Over?,” writer Janelle Nanos addresses many troubling issues at universities today: skyrocketing tuition costs, the burden of increasing student debt, and whether college teachers are adequately qualified to teach.

Yet at best, this cover story in Boston magazine’s September 2011 “Education Issue” is misleading. At worst, the assumption that what students get out of college is akin to a consumer choice—a personal transformation that can be purchased—reflects what’s really wrong in the halls of academe.

As Nanos tells it, when she first got her acceptance letter to Boston College, she was a believer in the “magic” of higher education:

“College was the golden ticket, the payout for slogging through high school’s tedium and testing. I didn’t have much say in where I went to high school—I was a public school kid with public school teachers for parents—but the college decision was mine, and it would catapult me into a future that I could define.”

Now, “more than a decade” out, Nanos returns to her alma mater, dogged by what she calls a “basic question: Was it worth it?

That’s a lot of handwringing from somebody who’s a senior editor at Boston magazine. Continue reading