Elizabeth Stam applied to the University of Iowa planning on majoring in communication studies. After getting accepted, Stam anxiously awaited starting her college career in 2014. But after she realized her true goals, she made the bold decision to move to Iowa City without enrolling at the university.
A New York Times article gave information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics which said in the spring of 2014 only 65.9 percent of students who just graduated high school had enrolled in college. This went down from 66.2 percent the previous year, and from 70.1 percent in 2009.
Stam made the decision against higher education for multiple reasons, but according to the National School Board Association, finances are the biggest reason for students not enrolling.
Now Stam is moving to Utah for six weeks for orientation, to then move to Chicago to work for SkyWest Airlines as a flight attendant.
VERVE: What happened that made you decide not to go to college?
STAM: It was my parent’s idea. They were like, “Why don’t you just not go?” I was always thinking, “No, I’m going to go to college. Duh.” College is always there. I’m going to go, well maybe I will if I figure out what I want to do and if that requires schooling.
VERVE: Then why did you move to Iowa City?
STAM: [My parents] told me I had to get out of the house, so I moved here. Then I went back home to visit, and they had redone their whole house. I’m like okay, this is where my college money is going. That’s not really true, but they did redo the house. That’s true.
I still wanted to live a life. I wanted to move out and be independent. At that age, you gotta go.
I got a job at Forever21 when I moved out here, and then I was just gonna take it from there.
VERVE: What would you be doing now if you had gone to school?
STAM: I’d be panicking. I don’t really quit things, so I definitely would’ve kept going. If I would’ve gone I’d be in so much fucking debt. Instead of going to school I was just thinking about my next step. I wanted to get out of Iowa City. So that’s how I thought of being a flight attendant. If I was in school, I wouldn’t have had time to think about that at all. I wouldn’t have even considered it because I’d be so busy with school.
VERVE: Have you always wanted to be a flight attendant?
STAM: No. When I moved here I thought, “Okay, what are you doing here?” I knew when I came to Iowa City I had to be thinking about why I was there and what my next step was. I thought about what I could do without a degree. I thought about where I wanted to live. Then I put the two together. I thought “Oh, I could fly, get paid, and figure out where I want to live my life.” I thought of a flight attendant.
VERVE: How do other people feel about you not going to college?
STAM: Oh my god. I never realized how mean people would be when you tell them you don’t go to school. I was going to major in theatre, and people would try to show me that I was making a dumb decision. But it’s worse than that. Telling people that I didn’t go to college, I’ve gotten so much shit. It’s crazy. People have so many reasons why you need a degree and you need an education. I really, really believe that it’s not for some people. The generation before us doesn’t agree with that.
So many people I know that are middle-aged women went from their parent’s house to their sorority house to their husband’s house. That’s a lovely life, but I want a little bit of clarity.
VERVE: What advice would you give to someone considering skipping college?
STAM: I’d probably tell them to really know what you’re doing if you don’t go because school’s pretty important. You pretty much need a degree for anything. So if you’re literally not interested in a single thing that you need a degree for, don’t go. But if you just don’t know what you wanna do, I’d say still keep the possibility in mind. You don’t have to go right away, but still remember it. Just remember it’s something you can have in your life if you want. You decide.