On Wednesday, February 2, The Graduate School of Education at Harvard University's Pathways to Prosperity Project published a report, which recommends that the United States broaden its approach to higher education.
Four-year college is not the only means by which to achieve success in adulthood, the report says. "While the United States is expected to create 47 million jobs in the 10-year period ending in 2018, only a third of these jobs will require a bachelor's or higher degree. Almost as many jobs - some 30 percent - will only require an associate's degree or a post-secondary occupational credential." The study recommends identifying career fields of interest early on, and then creating pathways by which students can learn the skills they need to succeed in those occupations, some of which involve a bachelor's degree and some of which do not.
So what does it mean, now, to put "higher education within the reach of every American," as Obama mentioned in his State of the Union address?
It means that we must simultaneously focus on preparing students for four-year colleges, while also providing more opportunities for vocational training and access to community colleges. It means that we must provide a quality of education and a level of information about post-secondary opportunities that gives all students the knowledge and support they need to discern the career path that is best for them.
Fortunately, we have some research on what works. Future of Children volumes on Transition to Adulthood and America's High Schools discuss in greater detail a range of programs from work training to high school college preparatory programs that have already shown evidence-based success.
There are no simple solutions, but it is helpful to have information on what we believe is effective. The Future of Children provides research and analysis on the most important issues facing children, from poverty to electronic media, to childhood obesity, and of course, to education.