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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

The Big Q Blog

"one way" and "another way" road signs

Passion or Practicality?

Mark must decide whether to please his parents and be relieved of his tuition costs, or to follow his dreams and accrue significant debt.
Mark has always loved to draw, creating images from things he’s seen around him and things he conjures up in his own imagination. He is fascinated by the fine arts, and when he pictures his future, he sees himself as a curator of an art museum, or the owner of his own gallery.
There’s just one problem. With the recent economic downturn and two younger siblings to think about, Mark faces many daunting financial obstacles in order to pursue his education. As a college freshman, he’s picked up some federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans, but his school’s endowment is less than stellar so he hasn’t received many grants. In essence, he’s looking at about a 150k debt that he’ll have to pay off when he graduates. He plans on continuously applying for merit-based scholarships, but he knows that he’s still going to have a lot on his shoulders. With all of this to consider, his parents are encouraging to pursue something a bit more… “lucrative.” In their minds, something like business or engineering would have a much bigger return than a fine arts or art history degree. They are so serious about this, in fact, that they have decided they will only pay off Mark’s loans if he pursues something that they consider to be practical. If he chooses to pursue something in the arts, Mark will take on his debt by himself.  
Mark understands the situation he is in, and wants to be realistic… Perhaps he could become a businessman and sketch on the side, or volunteer at a local museum. However, he also feels like he can’t deny the part of himself that wants to completely follow his number one passion. How can Mark deal with this tug-of-war, respecting both his family’s wishes and his own hopes for the future?
Photo by cstmweb available under a Creative Commons license on Google Images.