A year ago I graduated from my Master's program at Uppsala University in Sweden. Upon graduation, I was accepted into a PhD program at King's College in London, but a lack of necessary funds caused me to pass on the opportunity. However, I was able to defer my enrollment to this year, which gave me some time to research my financial options.
It was actually the research into financing my research that eventually made me decide to scrap the PhD idea altogether. I started to think about how it was all a little backwards. One, I come up with an idea. Two, I pay tuition (or find someone else to pay tuition) so I can use the university's facilities and resources to complete my research. Three, the first year or two of my PhD program is basically another round of MA courses preparing me for research. Four, upon completion of the dissertation there is little hope that I will have any career prospects at that university or any university, let alone opportunities outside of academia.
It boiled down to paying a university a large sum of money to use their name, resources, and facilities. Afterwards, I would be back out on the street with three little letters attached to my name, which mean even less these days. Moreover, the amount of debt racked up obtaining those letters will still need to be paid, but there is little hope of job opportunity in the academic world, especially in the humanities. What else is a humanities PhD holder suppose to do exactly? My bigger question is: Why would anyone bother with a PhD in the humanities under these circumstances?
Of course I don't think the world of academia owes me a job. However, if I spend three to four years of my life conducting research, there should be some sort of benefit besides a pat on the back and, "Good job, here's our invoice."
There was a time when the benefits of a college degree outweighed the financial sacrifices. "You can't put a price on education." But they have put a price on it, and quite frankly, the price is too damn high.
Anyone with a curious mind can learn. All you need is a library card. Yet universities have managed to make a degree absolutely necessary to survive in this world. It's scary that student loans are not just for the unfortunate few anymore. Just about anyone who dares fill out a college application also fills out loan paperwork, and it isn't for small sums of money either.
I decided to work on my project solo. Will I get the recognition that I would have if I had attended King's? Of course not. But oddly, I don't care about the recognition as much as I care about my idea, my project. I care about learning. I care about finding an answer to my question and I don't think a educational institution should benefit financially from my genuine curiosity and desire to research an idea.
Even if a PhD would lead me to a professorship, I'm not sure I would take it. There is something sinister about academia these days. I'm not saying that university professors are the problem. There are some great professors out there, who still teach people how to think and ask questions, but these great professors are being stifled or stacked underneath such high tuition rates that only the elite few are able to enjoy their musings.
The ugly truth is that the modern education system is primarily controlled by rich white men, who sell the same ideology to keep themselves in power. By the time you get a handle on what's really going on, after a few philosophy and gender studies courses, you're already swimming in student loan debt. You want to know why education is so expensive? Those rich white men over there have the answer, and that answer will cost you $75,000.