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Like many young adults in America, I read Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead when I was in college and still consider it to be one of the best novels of the twentieth century. I’m not alone in this opinion, as Michael Malice often boasts about owning Rand’s personal copy of the book and has even mentioned it being one of his prized possessions. Ludwig von Mises also thought very highly of Rand, praising her “courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: you are inferior and all the improvements in your conditions which you simply take for granted you owe to the effort of men who are better than you.” Needless to say, one need not subscribe to Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism (I personally don’t) to find value in her work.

For those of you who have never read The Fountainhead, Howard Roark is the main protagonist of her story. Howard’s story begins with him as a student at a prominent architecture school, though he is soon thereafter expelled from his program. It is not Howard’s lack of motivation that results in his removal, but rather his unshakeable disposition and refusal to compromise his creativity. Instead of abandoning his innovative ideas and designing the traditional buildings that his professors expected, Howard voluntarily accepts his fate. It’s this integrity, as Rand puts it, that makes Howard the ideal man, man as “he could be and ought to be.”

Even though Rand wrote The Fountainhead in the 1940s, contemporary college students frequently find themselves in similar situations today. Right-wing students, especially those studying the humanities, are often faced with the dilemma of either voicing their dissenting opinions or writing what their professors want. I’m not suggesting that all students ought to do what Howard did in the face of modern academia, but I’m also not going to tell them that there isn’t some merit to his decision. University was hardly the end of Howard’s career as an architect.

Students, whether they are already studying at the university level or anticipate doing so, need to know what is in store for them. They also need to know how to make the most of their experience if they decide to go to college. The notion that “everyone should go to college” is impractical and detrimental for many young people, who would be better off starting a career and skipping out on the University experience.

The Current State of Modern Academia

It should come as no surprise for readers to learn that college professors typically tend to consider themselves members of the political left. “This trend,” according to Dr. Phillip Magness, “dates back to the first comprehensive faculty survey on political leanings in 1969.” Recent data, however, now suggests that America’s esteemed ivory towers have become increasingly polarized over the course of the last twenty years. This polarization in faculty ideology is not just a simple difference in opinion. Intellectual competition, in large part, is being stifled by dogmatism, instead of readily stimulated.

Countless stories continue to emerge from university campuses regarding Antifa professors, administrative biases, and violent campus protests. Right-wing students have been blatantly discouraged from arguing against the grain, resulting in one-sided classroom discussions. This silent schism is unfortunate because voicing different and unpopular opinions is often the catalyst for real intellectual progress. Alienated students are beginning to realize that nothing positive can come from disrupting a classroom echo chamber and are opting to keep their mouths shut.

What Lies Ahead for College Grads?

Intellectual differences aside, the average cost of a college degree grossly outweighs the value of actually possessing one (STEM degrees being an exception). Government student loans have all but destroyed the value of a diploma, as the supply of jobless college graduates continues to eclipse the demand for former students with no previous work experience. Most individuals are now finding themselves forced to pay for supplementary resources to make their resume stand out.

Many students, fearing the negative results of the post-grad job market, are choosing to stay in college instead of paying their student loans and taking a part-time serving job. The idea is that staying in college and acquiring a higher degree (thus amassing more debt) will allow them to wait out a difficult job market and enter the workforce with a higher starting salary. The result, however, is that some “over-educated” graduates are turned away from entry-level positions, even if they are willing to take the pay cut.

In addition to the growing number of circulating college degrees, the Federal Government is continuing to fuel the student loan bubble, with no end in sight. Knowing that the government is willing to pick up the check at any cost, Universities are raising the price of tuition, despite pleas for an affordable college education. The student loan crisis is getting so severe that numerous presidential candidates are even ran on the campaign promise to forgive student loans.

How to Survive College If You Do Attend

If an individual decides to go to college, as many young people do, they at least need to do the investigative work before signing a check or taking on student loans. Two years of college is a lot of money to spend to try to figure out what you want for your future, so having a major in mind before enrolling is a solid plan. There seems to be no shortage of tech-related careers, so obtaining a degree in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is still a viable option.

Students who want to study the humanities have to decide whether or not it’s worth it to sit in a hostile classroom environment. Not every college is the same, and one could very well end up in a program with open-minded professors, but it’s best not to try and luck into that situation. Look up the professors in your department before enrolling and reach out to them. Expressing your interests to your professors is important because you want them to embolden your desire to learn, not throttle it.

For individuals who desire to become full-time academics, unfortunately, you are going to have to bite the bullet and learn to play the game. If you produce quality research, it shouldn’t matter what your views are, but that doesn’t mean your colleagues will appreciate your findings. At the end of the day, your success as a professor is contingent on the opinion of your colleagues. They are the individuals who will be reviewing your work, deciding what gets published in academic journals, and whether or not you are granted tenure. Remember these points if you are contemplating a plan to bring balance to academic discussions.

What Are The Alternatives?

In spite of the claims from politicians, school advisors, and even some parents, you do not need to go to college to get an education. Almost everything you will learn in a college classroom can be done for a fraction of the price by using the internet. Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom and the Ludwig von Mises Institute offer numerous courses for less than the cost of a single university textbook. Brion McClanahan, Saifedean Ammous, and Jordan Peterson all have inexpensive and free educational resources, which cover a variety of topics including history, economics, and psychology. Websites like Udemy and Khan Academy are also excellent resources for those who enjoy learning but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on an education.

With so many online resources becoming readily available to the public every day, contemporary college students and high school graduates need to consider their education alternatives. Education is no longer a financial death sentence, and in the face of a polarized and hostile academic system, many students will likely opt to take their money elsewhere.