You may have heard of Belle Knox, the Duke university undergrad/porn performer who’s recently been media blitzed all over the place… If not, I suggest starting with this XOJane piece and letting Google take it from there.

So many issues related to sex work, gender inequalities, hypocrisy, privacy, autonomy, ageism, and representation (and more) have been raised, but I keep going back to Belle’s initial stated rationale for getting into porn: paying for college.

Specifically, according to Belle:

I couldn’t afford $60,000 in [Duke] tuition, my family has undergone significant financial burden, and I saw a way to graduate from my dream school free of debt, doing something I absolutely love. (here)

I have so many questions on the basis of this statement alone (e.g. $60K per year or total?), the biggest of which is: is college really worth it?

Now, I don’t mean “Is paying for college *worth* getting into porn?” This sounds like a question they would’ve asked on “The View,” which Belle appeared on on March 17th. Given the bits I saw, I imagine those View ladies were all about wondering if *ruining* one’s entire life – because doing porn is still considered ruinous by the masses – was worth (possibly) paying down a little debt. That line of inquiry is extremely problematic on so many levels.

What I mean instead is: is college even worth doing nowadays, especially at that price tag?

I have taught at an array of elite private universities, large state schools, and local community colleges. At every school, at every level, there were students who flourished and others who floundered. Whatsmore, within each group of flourish or flounder, there were always some that flourished and others that floundered post-degree.

Put simply, university success (or failure) in no way guarantees future success (or failure). At least, not from what I’ve seen.

Regardless of the nature of one’s undergraduate experience, most students today seem to assume two things: 1) attending college is the “correct” choice, and 2) attending the “best” college is the best choice. I hear this over and over again – while many young learners express anxiety about their current circumstances and inevitable futures, they also express something akin to “I had to get in HERE, college is the ONLY option.”

Is the path from higher education to success as fixed as this?

Allegedly, a higher ranking/bigger name academic program is the precursor to glory, thus only a fool would pick Boise State over Yale. This is regarded as a one-to-one absolute. And maybe it used to be (for some), but more and more lately I’m beginning to question this. Is it better to go to the “best” school, or should you go to the school that’s best for you? Should you go to the famous school, or should you go to the school that will foster your interests and get you some actual work/life experience… because that’s really the most important thing nowadays. If the demand for a program or place is SO GREAT that folks literally line the block, what’s the likelihood of you getting what you need to succeed?

In 2014, it takes more than a degree (at any level) to secure an income (at any level), and this is only intensifying. So when I think about Belle, I wonder not about how she has chosen to pay for school. I wonder instead about school in general and the choice to attend Duke, or some such comparable university, over a less expensive, more localized option.

Need some school advice? Make an appointment for virtual office hours right here.


(pictured: skool… via shutterstock)

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