The title says it all, but here's the personal side of it:
I've been doing design and programming for about as long as I can remember. If there's a programming problem, I can figure it out. (Though admittedly StackOverflow has allowed me to skip the figuring out and get straight to the doing in many instances.) I've made games, esoteric programming languages, and widgets and gizmos galore. I'm currently working on a general-purpose programming language. There's nothing I do better than programming.
However, I'm just as passionate about design. Thus when I felt leaving high school that my design skills were lacking, I decided to attend university for New Media Design and Imaging, a digital design-related major. For a year, I diligently studied art and programmed in my free time.
As the next year progressed, however, I was obligated to take fewer art and design classes and more technical classes. The trouble was of course that these classes were geared toward non-technical students, and were far beneath my skill level at the time. No amount of petitioning could overcome the institution's reluctance to allow me to test out of such classes, and the major offered no promise for any greater challenge in the future, so I took the extreme route: I switched into the technical equivalent of the major, New Media Interactive Development.
A lot of my credits moved over into the new major, but many didn't. It would have been infeasible to switch to a more rigorous technical major such as Computer Science, and having tutored Computer Science students at every level here, I doubt I would be exposed to anything that I haven't already or won't eventually find out on my own, since I'm so involved in the field.
I'm now on track to graduate perhaps a year later than I had planned, which puts a significant financial strain on my family and my future self. My schedule continues to be bogged down with classes that are wholly unnecessary for me to take. I'm being re-introduced to subjects that I've covered a thousand times over, simply because I've always been interested in it all. And though I succeed in avoiding the cynical and immature tactic of failing to complete work out of some undeserved sense of superiority, I'm becoming increasingly disillusioned by the lack of intellectual stimulation.
Further, my school requires students to complete a number of quarters of co-op work experience proportional to their major. My original major required two quarters, but my current requires three, delaying my graduation even more. To top it all off, college is putting a severe strain on my relationship with my very close partner of a few years, so I've searched diligently for co-op jobs in my area, alas to no avail.
I'm now in my third year, and approaching that point past which I can no longer handle this. Either I keep my head down, get a degree no matter what it takes, and try to get a job with a company that will pay me enough to do what I love that I can eventually pay off my loans; or I cut my losses now, move wherever there is work, and in six months start paying off what debt I've accumulated thus far.
So the real question is: is a university education really more than just a formality?
It's a big decision, and one I can't make lightly. I think this is the appropriate venue for this kind of question, and I hope it sticks around for the sake of others who might someday find themselves in similar situations.
My heartfelt thanks for reading, and in advance for your help.