Human language

Walter Wendler college education is not always a guarantee of satisfaction


The Rolling Stones anthem and the genesis of the British invasion, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, moans in depressing and simple language that “satisfaction” was impossible. The students of the 60s loved it. Millennials and post-millennials challenge a new idea of ​​the possibilities of satisfaction.

I visited Texas Panhandle High Schools and watched an audience that already numbered over 2,000 students in various schools, from urban institutions to “little red schools.” The look in many back eyes suggests a cross between wonder and doubt. Will a college education make them happy?

To be honest and blunt, I tell students that if I could assure them that the college education we offer at West Texas A&M University would make them happy, we would be the greatest university on the planet. I have to tell them that this is a guarantee that is not offered. Do not confuse happiness with satisfaction and joy, although they are all in the same neighborhood bound by the seemingly eternal glue of the human condition.

Arthur Brooks, in a reflection on the Atlantic, “A university degree is not the guarantee of a good life”, tackles the question head-on. By design or by default, academic leadership often involves a guarantee of happiness or satisfaction. Likewise, elected officials express the idea that a more educated society is beneficial. That’s right, but the fault here – and it bothers me – is that a certificate of attendance, a college degree, doesn’t always claim to be more educated. Moreover, lenders and bureaucrats who benefit from a nearly $ 2 trillion lending industry support the same proposition. Of course, there are correlations. However, the correlations are not as strong as many young people and their families would suggest. This can be particularly glaring among the first students of the family and parents who believe that a college education is a panacea or a meal ticket. Either way, they could be wrong.

Recent college graduates tend not to be as satisfied with the job as senior professionals. A finding reported in a story from describes that being happy is not correlated with education level but more with age and income. A truthful conclusion also reveals that college graduates felt “less fulfilled than workers who did not continue their education after high school.” This follows a study on the relationship between employee satisfaction and their wages conducted by Glassdoor. The relative dissatisfaction of some college graduates may be due to the ever-increasing debt burden to obtain degrees that seem to offer less and less. The maxim? The higher the debt level, the harder it is to achieve a sense of job satisfaction.

A Harvard Health Publishing study, associated with the sheer benefits (satisfaction) of increased earning potential, is typically associated with a college degree and a sense of purpose. The goal can manifest itself in many ways: community involvement, family circumstances and relationships, and other living conditions that are not necessarily attributed to a college education. This study suggests that the goal creates better health, which leads to increased interest in health protection, stress reduction, and, in general, greater engagement.

Remember the college admissions scandal? Actress Lori Loughlin has been accused of bribing officials to get her children admitted to USC. Hypnotized by the mirage that a certain college guarantees better job prospects, higher incomes and a general sense of well-being is a mistaken mismatch. An Atlantic article, “Children Fall Victims of Elite College Obsession,” reveals parental pressure to gain admission to highly competitive schools creates a burden on parents and students. US News & World Report, summarizing a study from Gallup and Purdue University, shows how selective schools don’t always guarantee a higher likelihood of being engaged in their work or having a higher purpose. The elite pecking order does not guarantee satisfaction or well-being after graduation. On the contrary, students’ experiences in college, in a variety of academic and extracurricular settings, are more likely to have an impact on happiness after graduation. This study found that just one teacher, a mentor, could have a powerful impact on students after graduation. A caring faculty can be more important than branding or prestige.

Positive and impactful lifelong experiences occur at many different institutions, regardless of rank or status. The ongoing university debt burden and the overall impact of debt on post-graduation disillusionment makes authentic, high-contact / high-efficiency institutions attractive. Many regional universities, such as WT, provide effective opportunities for good skills and critical thinking while providing memorable and valuable educational experiences. A powerful punch for many students and families. The Rolling Stones may have missed it. I may also be. But, the prophet Isaiah offered this advice listened to and evaluated by millions multiplied during two millennia:

“And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in the scorched places and strengthen your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters are not lacking. Isaiah 58:11

Walter V. Wendler is president of West Texas A&M University. His weekly columns are available at


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