This editorial reflects the official opinions of 42Fifty’s 2019-2020 editorial staff. For more information on staff editorials, please see our editorial policy.

All it takes is a glance around the halls of Oswego High School to feel the pressure of attending a four-year college or university after graduating; classroom doors and bulletin boards are plastered with logos and posters. Looking around the auxiliary gym on the day of the PSAT on Oct. 16, almost every staff member in sight was sporting a T-Shirt of a four-year college. Even at PSAT/SAT College-and-Career Readiness Preparatory Sessions on Wednesday, Oct. 30, teachers implied that students should be motivated by the thought of attending a four-year college. However, there are other options that better match the needs of many OHS students, both financially and demographically. As the editorial staff of 42Fifty, we feel that OHS pushes four-year colleges too much, while not promoting community college or other post-graduation options enough.

The issue begins with the counselors at OHS, who push four-year colleges and universities to almost every student who meets with them. However, the financial status of most students doesn’t make a four-year college easily attainable. The average income of one person in Oswego, Illinois, is $61,991, per Data USA, and the average cost of an out-of-state public university is $25,620 per year, according to College Data. An unfortunate situation, the income falls in a range that doesn’t qualify for a significant amount of financial aid, leaving students struggling to afford their education. For many, community college is simply a better fit, as it is a way to complete general education classes at a fraction of the cost at top universities.

On average, a graduate of Illinois State University makes $49,000, according to College Simply. On the other hand, a graduate of Waubonsee Community College makes an average of $34,900 per year, according to College Simply. This may seem like a significant jump at first glance, but comparing the annual tuition makes an important point. The annual tuition for Illinois State University is $14,061, while Waubonsee Community College is $7,230, according to pages of both programs. At Illinois State, students are paying twice as much but making a fraction of that back post-graduation. Financially speaking, community college is the better option for most students at OHS, so why is it not presented that way?

Community college isn’t the only option besides a four-year school, either. In a survey conducted by the OHS Student Services Department with students from the class of 2019, 6% went into the military, 1% chose a trade school, and 4% are working this year. A four-year college is only one of the many options available for students, and we believe that all should be presented equally.

It’s difficult to be pushed into this expectation that students are meant to go to college after high school to further their education. Deciding what we want to do with the rest of our lives is a big step towards adulthood, and at the tender age of 16-17, is far too strenuous and complicated to handle. Instead of pushing this ideal that students go to a four-year college or university, why won’t the school emphasize other options for the future? While college is a useful tool to prepare for life, it’s not always necessary for everyone.