Maybe “College For All” Is Wrong

By: Jennifer M. Morrison

For the last half century, the idea that a four year degree is the only way to secure a career and the middle-class has permeated our educational system. This idea has caused a myriad of problems including an economy left without skilled trade workers and high school students who are either force themselves into four year degree programs or those who are left adrift unsure of their next step.

While news reports and politicians may want you to believe that there are fewer jobs to be had, the truth is there are jobs to be had, jobs that have been labeled “menial” by the shadow of the “college for all” campaign. Trades such as carpenters , plumbers, electricians, HVACs, and some health care positions are all suffering from low numbers of workers because many students who would have attended trade schools after high school were coerced into believing a four year degree was the only path to success. Our economy has suffered greatly from this shortage, sending jobs and revenue overseas.

The idea that all high school students should be prepared for a traditional four year college creates a gap in the student body. There are many students who do not succeed by studying texts, listening to lectures, and showing the results during written examinations but this is how high schools across the nation are educating students. Often these students are forcing themselves to take on four year academic programs that do not fit their personalities or learning styles. This not only creates unnecessary educational struggles for the students but also creates unnecessary debt in the form of student loans that average $28,400 per student at the time of graduation from a four year institution. For students who manage to avoid being pressured into a four year academic program, they are often left jumping from job to job; unable to develop a career because they lack training in a specific skill set.

A study published by Harvard University found that two-thirds of the jobs created within the next four years will require job applicants to have completed post-secondary education. The catch is that at least half of those jobs won’t require bachelor degrees but rather certificates and associate degrees in industries such as automotive, healthcare, and HVAC systems. And if certified in a particular skill or field, a person is likely to earn a comparable amount of money to their four year degree holding counterpart.

Education should not be a “one size fits all” model. Our economy is host to an array of different industries, including skilled trades, and we need to acknowledge that some students are better suited for those positions and provide them with the avenues to pursue and obtain the necessary skills for success.

Is college for you?