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As University of Nebraska-Lincoln students, we are lucky to call ourselves Huskers and be a part of this amazing tradition and community. Some of us are lucky enough to have a set idea of what we want our futures to look like and to have a solidified five- or 10-year plan and a major we are passionate about. That’s why I’m here — out of the schools I visited, the journalism program at UNL was my top choice, and I wanted to have the best opportunities I could beyond graduation. 

So what difference does it make if somebody has a passion that leads them elsewhere, not involving a four-year university or some sort of prestigious academic program? 

I have a friend who was passionate about joining the military before high school graduation, and that path has led her to basic training, tech school, years of commitment and possibly deployment. 

Some of my high school classmates are proficient and experienced in essential trades, such as welding or cosmetics, which led them to a two-year tech or trade school. 

Many people have no desire to attend a large four-year university and prefer a less hustle-and-bustle setting. I have friends who attend community college and enjoy the less intense experience. On the other hand, I wholeheartedly enjoy the larger campus size, and many of my friends here at UNL enjoy it as well.

Oftentimes, some people simply are not interested in pursuing higher education, and they prefer to work immediately out of high school. People do not owe anyone an explanation if somebody chooses a “nontraditional” path after graduation. All in all, what you want to do with your life is a huge decision to make as a teenager, and some people just have no idea — and that’s perfectly OK, too. We have so much more time in our lives to decide what we want to do than it feels like. 

Every person has different interests and passions in life, leading them to all sorts of different higher education institutions, trade schools, community colleges and more. Those who choose a different path in their life should not be looked down upon or seen as insignificant or unimportant. Everybody has a role to play in the world, and it’s OK that our paths are not identical. 

Some people’s passions are not those that you can choose to major in or receive a degree for, and some passions only require two years to receive that degree. For example, joining the military, police force, becoming a fireman, etc. do not require degrees — only specific training for that particular career. Other paths such as community college, culinary school, beauty school, tech school and others offer associate’s degrees and certificates rather than a four year bachelor’s degree. 

With the increasing price of higher education, many people are not able to afford a four-year education. As of August 15, 2021, the average cost per year of college is $35,720, which has tripled from twenty years ago. The annual growth rate is 6.8 percent, leaving students with more and more debt each year they go to school. The average debt for each student borrower lands around $39,351. 

There are ways that potential students may be able to afford to attend college if they are financially ineligible. Many people choose to work and/or attend two-year colleges to save for a larger university. Grants, scholarships, loans, work-study jobs and more are also available to students every year. However, even with these opportunities, it still is a hefty price for most lower-class and middle-class families. 

I know that for me, it took every scholarship, grant and loan to be able to afford attending school. Unfortunately that is not the case for many, and I am extremely grateful that I am able to be here. I hope in the future, anybody who has a passion to explore will be financially able to fulfill their goals and follow whatever path they desire. 

Without people pursuing a variety of life paths, the world would not go round. Every person is important and makes a difference, whether they are a neurosurgeon or a custodian. I am proud to call myself a Husker, and I could not be happier with the decision I made to attend college here. Some of us enjoy the larger campus experience, some of us enjoy a smaller atmosphere; we all have different preferences that work for each of us. Again, we are different people with different passions and interests. Nonetheless, we all have the same amount of value and importance in this world. 

Emerson McClure is a sophomore journalism and advertising & public relations major. Reach her at emersonmcclure@dailynebraskan.com.