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Students are enrolling in to colleges across the country at increases rates in the hopes of obtaining a job that allows them to reach middle class economic status. Despite this fact, many college graduates are finding it more difficult to acquire a job in their field of degree. So then the critical question is: Is a college degree the route to the middle class?

According to a report by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, vocational education is becoming important to economic access in Europe. This report is called Pathways to Prosperity.  

Here’s an excerpt from Pathways to Prosperity:

By now, the vast majority of American young people and their families have gotten the very clear message that a high school diploma alone is no longer a sufficient passport to the middle class. Surveys show that middle school students overwhelming aspire to go to college. And college enrollment has continued to escalate. So our national failure to better prepare our young people cannot be explained by poor communications or low aspirations. Rather, the paradox is that even though young people understand they need post-secondary education to make it in 21st century America, huge percentages continue to drop out of high school and college.
This is true. Only 30% of adults in their mid 20’s obtain college degrees. According to the Pathways to Prosperity report, 56% of students in four year colleges in the U.S. meet their goals and has the highest college dropout rate in the international community.

The report goes on to say, “We fail these young people not because we are indifferent, but because we have focused too exclusively on a few narrow pathways to success.”  American federal spending on education has focused its interest on STEM since the late 1950’s. This has narrowed the pathways to success by increasing educational opportunities in the STEM subjects. Despite this fact, federal spending hasn’t been able to create as many jobs in the STEM fields to keep up with the rate of students pursuing careers in those fields.

Pathways to Prosperity states that the problem with the educational system is, “that our system has not evolved to serve young adults in this radically different world. Behaving as though four-year college is the only acceptable route to success…” There was a time when it was necessary for society to promote college as a route to success. Now it may be necessary to promote vocational education in that same manner rather than create a culture of educated individuals with no skills to acquire a job.

Two Final Quotes

Given the barriers—including weak or nonexistent career counseling, rising college costs, inadequate financial aid, and the frequent need to balance their courses with jobs that are often totally disconnected from their programs of study—it is a minor miracle that so many still manage to complete a degree.
These are the challenges of secondary education. As mentioned in a previous diary, it is necessary to look at the root causes of a system that does not lend itself to the needs of society. One of the roots is the dramatic shift from self-reliance to subsidized “success.” People have gone from being able to make a living to being able to educate themselves into being overqualified or unqualified for jobs. Education is extremely important but not at the expense of being able to live and be self-reliant.
As a nation, we currently spend over $400 billion annually on post-secondary education, but the returns on this investment are inconsistent. Efforts to hold colleges accountable for their graduation rates are finally gaining some traction. Complete College America, established in 2009 with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others, is working to dramatically increase the nation’s college completion rate through state policy changes. And at least three states—Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee—have changed their funding formulas to reward completion, not just enrollment.
If the returns on any investment are inconsistent, then it is time to look at the investment and decide whether not the desired result is possible. Holding colleges accountable for graduation rates is useful, but the focus should be on whether or not those students who do not graduate should have been encourage to try other educational programs such as vocations.

Pathways to Prosperity expresses that the most advanced nations place emphasis on vocational education. Maybe it’s time for Americans to reconsider where the focus of secondary education should be. If the idea is to compete globally, why are we doing everything to disadvantage our students in this competition?

Please read the rest of the findings in the full report at Pathways to Prosperity

-by Bryant Muldrew

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Comment Preferences

  •  unlike Europe vocational education doesn't mean (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    a livable wage so a college degree is the only chance, even if many people with a degree don't do well.

    Unlike Europe we import millions of workers and export millions of jobs, the competition is fierce.

    I'd never encourage anyone to go to vocational school other than nursing.

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 02:34:51 PM PST

    •  Another choice (0+ / 0-)

      I'm familiar with a midwest "Junior College". It essentially turns out automotive and aircraft mechanics, HVAC service folks, diesel technicians, and electricians. And has for over 20+years. Folks with this type of training are in demand, As cars, trucks, factories and environmental sys.ems grow more complicated, so does the demand for people who understand how to keep them productive, and on line.
      Ask your local car dealership what his service manager, and his service writers earn annually. They are likely mechanics who were promoted. 'Not saying all technicians are rolling in the dough, but they are making a pretty good living. And they are working. Two of my siblings got their two year degree there, and are now retired and doing well. I don't think they were "out of work" more than two weeks in either of their work careers.

    •  "The only choice"? Doing necessary work, (0+ / 0-)

      honest and decent work, while fighting for equality  for all and trying to prize back from the grip of the pedigreed and degreed exploiters what they have stolen from us..

      This isn't even an option in your world view?

      It's one thing to just out and admit it's not an option you've got what it takes to pursue - it's another to somehow claim that it's not a choice for anyone.

      "the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared material at these facilities and LOFs."

      by JesseCW on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 09:43:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thomas Jefferson started a free 2 yr college (0+ / 0-)

    University if Virginia to educate the yeomanry so they could better participate in local and state government as members of the town council and state leg.

    Either we

    Make a 2 year college mandatory, or free.

    Or we fit that 2 years of college into the K-12 public school curriculum. SO in the future, high school grads will have a K-14 education, sort of speak, at age 18.

    Or we make 4 years of college free. We need to get a higher percent of our kids into college, one way or another, but we need to do this.....

    FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 03:28:09 PM PST

  •  FIFY (0+ / 0-)

    College the route to perpetual student loan debt.

    This isn't our grandparents economy. Pretending that it is is deceptive.

    "Til you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules" John Lennon - Working Class Hero

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 04:15:00 PM PST

  •  Not the route. (0+ / 0-)

    The guard at the gate, keeping the boisterous riff-raff and street trash out.

    "the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared material at these facilities and LOFs."

    by JesseCW on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 09:39:56 PM PST

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