A college education is looked on in many parts of the world as a right, something owed to a person by society. In some nations, a post-secondary education is something that society provides for its members, rather than something that must be attained or an honour reserved for the privileged.
In other parts, a college education is not looked on as a right, but rather a privilege or even a commodity to be bought and sold. A degree is not an investment in society, but simply a tool to gain wealth or power. In America, in Nebraska, at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, we’re faced with a mix of the two views of college. In a way, the fact that UNO is a public university, it’s costs subsidized by the state, and operating not for profit, it follows the model of education as a right provided by society. This side of things is further strengthened by the availability of need-based grants and scholarships provided by the state university system and the federal system.
But the fact that the schooling still carries a price tag, and one the student is liable for, discounting scholarships and financial aid, points to the other view of education: a product sold. Being able to pay for college introduces a level of privilege, and if unable to pay, a student must be saddled with debt if they still wish to study. But regardless of how you, the student and reader, enrolled as a student at UNO, and what that enrollment and the financial side meant to you philosophically, I would like to propose that you can look on this enrollment as another thing entirely. That is, higher education as an Opportunity.
Regardless of how we got here, we’re in this together. Regardless of it’s personal cost to us or lack thereof, this education represents a great opportunity, and it will be up to us to fulfill that opportunity in our own ways. A public university, especially, provides it’s own opportunities over a private school. It’s an institution that’s necessarily more diverse, less inclined to becoming stale and stilted. But to take advantage of this diversity will require some effort, to fulfill the opportunity of a diverse education, you must take action.
The temptation to relapse into familiar modes of thought and patterns of action may be great, but it must be resisted. Whether through starting conversations in class, engaging in dialogue with fellow students or teachers, or listening to special topics seminars and attending cultural fairs, the opportunities for diversity are many on UNO’s campus, but action from you is required for all of them.
A city university also provides it’s own unique opportunities and challenges compared to a traditional college town. The opportunities can come in the shape of something mundane, like more food options, or practical, like a better off-campus housing market, things that are relatively straightforward to take advantage of. They can also come in more challenging packages, like opportunities to volunteer off campus, or navigating the challenging world of an employment arena competed over by students from other colleges and a big city full of people.
In any case, The University of Nebraska at Omaha offers a unique opportunity and challenge to a student, regardless of how or why you’ve enrolled. It’s important that you take advantage of it.