Wasted Wealth: Is It A Waste Of Time For Celebrities To Go To College?

June 28, 2014  |  

A few weeks ago, child star and Harry Potter’s right hand amiga, Emma Watson graduated from Brown University with a degree in English Literature. She’s among the few child stars who have taken time off from their careers to get a degree including Tia and Tamera Mowry, Keshia Knight-Pulliam and The Olsen twins. What I was shocked by was how much criticism came Watson’s way from fans about how pointless it was to waste her time getting a college education when she was already a millionaire by the age of 14.

It reminded me of just how frustrated my generation and today’s graduates are by the increasing cost of education and the lack of payoff people are seeing for years of hard work. It’s unfortunate but less and less of a value is being placed on being educated because people are being forced to obsess over being employed.

I am by no means “ballin’” but I consider myself “lucky” by today’s standards. After four years of college I was able to walk away from a small liberal arts college with a decent education, a degree and only $20,000 in student loan debt. Although it took me damn near a year to find employment, I found a job that I loved doing, was able to rescue my loans from the increasing amount of interest they were building in forbearance and actually afford to pay them and move out my momma’s house and still feed myself. The plus? I feel like I actually get to use my degree at least on the side AND make some income from it. And all that wasn’t without years of hard work. Even with that I still find myself plagued by many questions that my generation shares:  Do I have the job stability to get a car note so I can actually make the commute to work and be able to pay it? Do I have to get 10 roommates to afford to live in a nice neighborhood? Was my degree a waste of time?

In many ways I can understand some people’s questioning of celebs who seem set for life interest in returning to the regular life of an undergrad. But at the end of the day when it comes to education, your choices really reflect what you value and believe it or not, not everyone goes to college thinking it’s the path to a six figure salary.

I remember how insulted I used to get by Facebook friends who would make stats about how all of their peers who went to college wasted their time because they were still broke and unemployed. It was like once the recession hit people took an attitude that it was justified to be uneducated. But my student loan is one bill I’m not pissed about paying. I learned skills both in and out the classroom that I wouldn’t have had the initiative to on my own. I got out of my four black radius and learned to interact with people from completely different backgrounds and not feel intimidated or awkward. I learned things about different areas of life that I never would have had any curiosity about because I didn’t know they existed.  Back then I didn’t think college would completely change my life, but I did know that managing a Dairy Queen wouldn’t either and I needed to do SOMETHING.

When teaching I am quick to tell my students that college isn’t for everybody and it definitely doesn’t make the difference it has in the past, but it’s not healthy for people to assume that an education is a waste if it can’t grant you financial security. I’m not saying a college campus is the only place to get an education, but let’s be honest.  How many young people are chilling in Barnes and Nobles reading about comparative police systems in different countries or the history of American health care on their own?

When I see celebs like Romeo Miller who pursued a degree at the University of Southern California or Drake who after making songs about telling his mom that class wouldn’t get him cash, recently received his high school diploma I think it sends a great example to today’s young people. I’m confused at how the public can criticize Terrell Owens for being broke or TLC for making bad business deals and then say college for celebs is a waste. Even celebs like LA Reid or Swizz Beatz who have built major brands have returned to school to learn how then can make their business better.

There isn’t a day that passes that the tax man isn’t coming for some celeb’s throat or we’re hearing about some reality star claiming bankruptcy. If there’s a time to recognize how temporary fame and wealth should, be it’s now. B.B. King once said, “”The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.” We should be sending the message that people should pursue education just for the sake of being educated, not just for financial comfort.  And let’s face it, there are worse things celebs could be spending their millions on. How about we spend more time criticizing these million dollar third weddings or the briefcases of cash the end up in some stripper’s behind and less time criticizing some celeb’s class roster?

Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a  passion for helping  young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health.  She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about  everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.


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