The Value of a Degree

 by: Thalia K. Velazquez Quiles

Yarelis Orengo, undergraduate student from the Pontifical Catholic University of Mayagüez (PUCPR, as known for its Spanish acronyms), aspires to reach her goal of graduating from criminal research, but hasn’t had it easy. From economic situations to e­motional ones there are many reasons why she as many other students find themselves unmotivated to finish college and earn their degree.

According to The Economist’s webpage obtaining a degree has always been known as the key to finding a good job, but with increases in fees and student debts and financial aids decreasing they’re undermining the perspective of universities being a good investment.

With every credit costing Orengo at least $175 and her taking 15 to 18 credits a semester she pays approximately $500 from her pocket because scholarships don’t fund her completely.

“My work-study checks go straight to the university to pay my debts”, she said. “I know I’m a young adult, but a little help from my parents would come in handy sometime or another”.

This takes us to motivational obstacles. In Steven Howey’s article “Motivation” he says that educators everywhere are frustrated with the challenge of motivating an increasing amount of students who aren’t prepared for college physically, socially or emotional. Advisors try to reach their advisees by offering freshman seminars, but there are other strategies they could put to use to help indecisive students like individual meets and orientations about the universities and courses that they give.

“Students enter universities lost, they don’t receive a good orientation or information about some who could give them one”, said school counselor Haydeé Collado from the Dr. Pedro Perea Fajardo Vocational school at Mayagüez.

Information about a university, the degrees offered and if it can provide you a good future is what students need to know before entering their chosen college. “Some high schools like the Vocacional prepare students to enter the work world not the college one and so many students don’t know what to do after graduation”‘ she said.

Orengo is one of these students. With just the fascination about the PUCPR she entered through social work and in second year decided this wasn’t what she wanted and switched to criminal research. “I was never oriented about the courses or the university, if I had been I wouldn’t have lost two years in unnecessary classes”, she said. “In order to make up for lost time I’ve sacrificed my summers to take class and catch up”.

Besides her lack of knowledge about the PUCPR and the economic problems she’s faced, she says her parents never approved of her choice of career or university. “My father wanted me to study accounting and my mother wanted me to enter the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, El Colegio“.

Parents sometimes don’t realize the role they play when motivating their child into receiving a degree. They want their kids to follow their footsteps or to study what they wanted to and when their child opts for something else they don’t support them as they’d do if their child would have agreed to their choice of career.

“I once taught a student with a four point average, very educated and responsible with a bright future ahead of her. I advised her about her options, but she didn’t want to study and her mother agreed with her letting all that potential go to waste”, said accounting teacher at the Vocacional, Rosa Mangual.

Lack of orientation for students like Yarelis and motivation as in Manguals’ student case, are obstacles that prevent them from receiving a degree and earning a title.

“A degree isn’t only for prestige; it provides you with a wealthier future,” says Collado, “but most importantly it gives you personal satisfaction”.

“Fees are going up and on the contrary helps for students are going down, but in the end a degree is worth it and even more”, said Orengo. “Nobody thought I could do it and here I am on the honor roll and working as the publicist on the Students Association of Criminology and Criminal Research proving them wrong”.

Yarelis Orengo receiving her certificate of the Students Association of Criminology and Criminal Research.

Yarelis Orengo receiving her certificate of the Students Association of Criminology and Criminal Research.

Bulletin board with the students on the honor roll at the PUCPR.

Bulletin board with the students on the honor roll at the PUCPR.

Collado says that in order to feel complete satisfaction with what you are doing you have to like it and feel good about it. She and Mangual both think that a degree doesn’t help you only economically, but personally as well.

“It has been a hard and long road, but I’m getting there with or without anyone’s support”, said Orengo, “because in the end the real value of my degree would be in how proud I am of myself for earning it”.

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