Title of Valedictorian Does Not Entitle Free Ride

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Title of Valedictorian Does Not Entitle Free Ride

Audrey Cummings, Staff Writer

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Valedictorians are acknowledged for their admirable work ethic, intelligence and determination; all qualities colleges look for in their students. Yet for CHS Valedictorian Totee Setthachuea, getting admitted was not the hard part in his college decision; it was the quality of the school’s education in relation to the cost of tuition and fees that was the determining factor.


Setthachuea grew up with a very unique lifestlye, incomparable to most students at Clairemont High. At the age of five, Setthachuea immigrated from Thailand with his mother and his sister. In the early stages of his schooling, Setthachuea claimed he was “…really shy, and couldn’t interact with people because [he] could not speak English.”


Setthachuea’s struggles, however, motivated him to excel in school. Nick Davidson, a classmate of Setthachuea’s for twelve years, said that “Totee started at a disadvantage in school, because he had to work harder than the rest of us to get at our level.” Little did Setthauea’s classmates know, this work ethic would eventually put him at the top of their high school class.


To keep himself motivated to get into college, Setthachuea thought about his family; how he wanted to make them proud for coming to America to invest in his education. “In high school I worked really hard and had a really strict study schedule that allowed me to be successful in school,” Settechuea stated. After Settechuea returned home from school and/or practice, he would seclude himself from outside distractions–family, video games, etc.– and work until everything he needed to accomplish was finished.


Going into college, Setthachuea knew he wanted to pursue a career in robotics, engineering or artificial intelligence. In terms of selecting a college, Setthachuea said he “…didn’t really have a top school. I just kept an open mind about who would offer me the best opportunity for my career.”


After getting into UC Irvine, UCSB and UCSD, the ninth top public school in the United States, Setthachuea faced a problem in deciding where he wanted to attend. “It wasn’t really a decision of money over merit…it was kind of a combination of both,” Setthachuea said. “I just needed to look at how good their education system is compared to their price.”


Regardless, tuition is an insanely inconveniencing price for families to pay. “Tuition is way too much, it’s kind of dumb how you have to pay to learn, but that’s how the economy works…” said Setthachuea.


Setthachuea is not the only student facing the issue of finding the “best bang for their buck.” Each year the price of tuition for college skyrockets. According to CollegeData, the average tuition and fees of the 2017-2018 school year at $34,740 for private schools and $25,260 for out-of-state public schools.


As of April 14, Setthachuea committed to UCSD, saying that “…they offered me the best opportunity to pursue a degree in Computer Engineering.” He states he is most excited for the freedom of college, and the “…impactful classes [he] will be taking, as they will actually be related to [his] career.”

Earning the title of Valedictorian did not make picking and choosing a college easier for Setthachuea. Nowadays, selection of education must be more focused on money as well as merit. Despite the stress of deciding on a college, Setthachuea has found a school that he is excited to attend, and anticipates earning his next title of UCSD Summa Cum Laude.  

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Title of Valedictorian Does Not Entitle Free Ride