Column: Is a degree from ASU really worth it?


Christine Shelton is the editor-in-chief for The Hornet Tribune for the 2020-21 academic year. She is a 21-year-old native of Chicago, Ill. who is seeking a degree in English. She hopes to one day become a high school instructor.

Christine Shelton, Editor-in-Chief

“If you go to an HBCU, you are more prepared for the cruel world because you are taught from the beginning that you have to work twice as good as anybody else,” Tom Joyner, a retired radio host, said.

As the clock winds down on my time here at Alabama State University, I am not only filled with relief that I came here and completed my studies in the allotted four years, but I also stand here with the frightening question left on my shoulders: “What’s next?” While I know what direction I want my life to go in after undergraduate school, I am still trying to piece together my immediate next steps.

If you think about it, my degree will be nothing but a piece of paper that says I took a certain number of courses that qualify me to go out into the real world and find a job. However, the downfall of that notion is that even with that piece of paper, I am not guaranteed a job in the field I chose. The hard truth is that in the real world, we need more than a degree to get a job.

 As I reflect on my time here, I realize there are certain skills I have obtained that I feel only my HBCU could have taught me. One skill that I will forever be grateful for is being a go-getter. This university is not big on just handing things out or giving things to those who are undeserving; whatever you want from this school, you have to earn it by your merit. Like Joyner mentioned, there are people in place who help you realize that our black skin will be our first disadvantage. Therefore, if you want to achieve a goal, you have to be willing to put in the work.

However, a downside to this lesson is that this university sometimes cannot help those who need assistance. Some of this issue is rooted in the financial burden placed upon the students and their families every semester. If you are not on scholarship here or an in-state student, you undoubtedly have to come out of pocket at least $3,000 per semester. I know this because during my previous semesters, I was one of the students who struggled financially yet thrived academically. Still, I never understood why it was so.

From my freshman year to my junior year, there was the possibility that I might not return to school because of financial discrepancies. The fear of being purged and having to take a semester off often consumed my thoughts, but luckily for me, I always had people in my corner who felt I was worth the help. 

Now that I have weathered the storm of financial hardship and I am on my way out of ASU’s doors, what does that mean for me? What did I really gain from attending this university? If someone were to ask me what has my university done for me, I would probably look them in the face and say wholeheartedly, “a hard time.” But, if I take the time to think about it, graduating from my university is a privilege that is not afforded to everyone. 

My HBCU taught me to be proud of the skin I am in and not to run from challenges. It has molded me into a more evolved, black woman, and it has helped me see that I do have a place in the world no matter who tries to steer me differently. Honestly, if someone had told me three years ago that I would be leading a team of nearly 40 members as the editor-in-chief of the campus’s newspaper, I would have looked at them like they were crazy. 

But, that is the beauty of college. Writing has always been one of my best skills. While I learned how to write at an early age, the art of news writing was an entirely different ballpark for me. It was almost like training myself to write all over again. The writing style was so different from the style I learned in my English courses. Even so, acquiring that skill has only made me more competitive in my chosen career field, and for that, I am grateful. 

Coming here has groomed me in ways I could have never imagined. Nor would I have gotten the experience anywhere else. I have built strong relationships with my professors and faculty members because of how close-knit the university is. If I ever need a recommendation in the future, there are a few people I could ask.

So, where does graduating from ASU get you? Nowhere, if you do not work for it. Just like in the real world, we cannot expect any handouts or even for people to automatically want to help. To be frank, my university is what you make it. The networking, internships, and career possibilities are all determined by you. 

Do not waste four years slacking off academically and thinking this is only a time to party because the time here is limited. The outside world is not always willing to give you second chances.