College is expensive.
It doesn’t matter whether you matriculate at a community college, a major university, or an Ivy League school, it’s not cheap.
Students troll online looking for every possible scholarship for which they could possibly apply, and parents are furiously seeking second mortgages and part-time jobs to help finance at least a portion of the enormous cost that lies ahead.
Why, then, when the students sit down with their guidance counselors, and more importantly with their parents, do they choose a major that leads them down a career path often terminating at a dead end?
Here are some examples. Although it might have been great for Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Lord Byron, and Tennyson in their times, being a poet does not pay well. Even Maya Angelou had to work as a fry cook and nightclub dancer before attaining her degree of fame; but Angelou, like so many others, also had backup being a journalist. Yet there are five institutions of higher learning that tout a major in poetry. The University of Michigan will school you in iambic pentameter for $62,000-plus in tuition and expenses yearly. Sarah Lawrence will happily take Daddy’s $55,500 per year, while Kenyon College in Ohio advertises their poetry major attached to a whopping $69,180 price tag. You don’t have to travel too far, either, if ode and verse are your strong suit. The Berklee College of Music in Boston is a bargain at just $41,500 annually; and right here in Rhode Island, students are majoring in the art of haiku at Brown for $73,880 ... and that’s just this year’s prices. The unique thing about Brown is they do NOT require students to take certain courses. God forbid they ask that you to matriculate with some English, history, and business attached to your poetry; no, Brown allows you to take what you want to take. If you’re just 18 and crave a career as a poet, how in hell do you know what it takes to be successful? You need a good solid educational background in case you have to fall back on something; and unless you’re Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson, chances are real good you’re going to need to have a backup plan.
Lest you think I’m picking on poetry majors, here are a few other “unusual” courses of study I found at major universities nationwide — and what they’re charging for the privilege to matriculate, get a degree, and be the smartest young person on the unemployment line. You can acquire a degree in bagpiping from the esteemed Carnegie Mellon University at a price tag of $61,541 (then make $200 to $250 per gig); travel to Indiana and graduate from Vincennes University at a mere $28,000 per year, proudly throwing your tassel to the left side of your graduation cap as you’re awarded a degree in bowling management; make Mom and Dad proud with a degree in comedy from Ontario’s Humber College; let Harrisburg Area Community College streamline your career path to auctioneering for a paltry $22,000 per year; or enter the highly competitive field of racetrack where you’ll receive a fairly small salary to help pay off that $38,000 per year you’ll owe the University of Arizona.
Want more? Attend Sullivan University in Louisville for over twenty grand per year, and you’ll possess a degree in nannying, where the average pay is $14.69 per hour. One of Sullivan’s courses is “Etiquette and Manners.” Didn’t Mom teach you that when you were five? Right here at home you can attend UConn for approximately $42,000 annually, and you’ll walk away in four years with a degree in puppet arts. Big market out there. And here’s one that makes little sense: Scrape up $75,400 per year, and you, too, can go to Duke University and earn a degree in Canadian studies. Maybe you’ll even have enough left over for your passport.
Even though I didn’t major in poetry, I thought I’d try my hand:
I’m on my way to college,
Can’t wait to seize the day,
Don’t have to take no English,
Can do it my own way.
I’m on my way to college,
To protest, drink, and laugh,
Required courses aren’t for me,
Don’t have to take no math.
I want to be a poet,
I want to share my gift,
If I can’t get a job real soon,
Just call me for a Lyft.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 17 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at email@example.com or 401-539-7762.