College Isn’t the Only Answer. Now What?

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.

8 thoughts on “College Isn’t the Only Answer. Now What?

  1. kus_thuglyfe

    Exactly, college isn’t the big thing it used to be. Most entrepreneurs who have changed lives never had any type of college degree. Just goes on to show that college isn’t really as important as it is thought to be.

  2. Kristen B.

    I am not sure if this is a good thing since there are many people who will get work through their skills and work experience aside from their education. But if college degree isn’t enough for work then people who had lesser education will have job opportunity or they are going to earn college/masteral degree to be more qualified.

    Onkyo TX-Sr608

  3. Plumbers Solihull

    Far too much attention has been given in recent years to promoting perceived academic subjects and professions to young people. A new focus needs to be developed for promoting traditional trades and industries. Scientists, Engineers, Carpenters, Plumbers and Construction workers are the wealth generators of the past and of the future. At some point, some western economies seem to have strayed from this eternal truth.

  4. Adrianne

    This financial crisis has changed a lot the people’s thinking. I’ve seen a list with the most paid jobs from the US. In this list I’ve seen few jobs without a lot of knowledge or a lot of school diplomas. I suppose the secret is to be well adapted at the right moment.

  5. Lucrari de Diploma

    The future of children in any country depends on their education. I agree with all of president Obama`s points of view.

  6. Gary rayl

    I have had the wonderful opportunity to be part of Public Education for 39 years and have watched reform movements all those years. Again we state what schools are doing and then say they must change. Where did this College Prep for all idea come from? Not the local schools or the practitioners. It came from Federal policy — No Child Left Behind — then spread like prairie fire through the established groups which provide professional inservice such as High Schools That Work. The information providers jump on whatever bandwagon that will generate revenue to their conventions and consultants.

    Again, we tell schools to change – to what? What model will leap out of this idea? I think you are right we should somehow meet the needs of all our students. We were much closer before a college prep image was pressed on all. Now do we go bact to what worked? Or do we talk, but evaluate schools based on academic testing?

    We can’t be a resource for all children and have it both ways.

    Dr. Gary M Rayl

  7. Susan Sarnoff

    One-size-fits-all solutions are rarely effective. Not everyone needs a college education. In fact, many of the students going to college now do not expect to get jobs that require college–but K-12 programs have failed so miserably that graduation from college demonstrates about what a bachelor’s degree did a generation or so ago. We need to improve our K-12 programs and to stop social promotion.

    We also need to focus on jobs that are needed locally throughout the country and encourage students to consider them. Plumbers, mechanics and bakers are much needed jobs–and they cannot be done from overseas. They can also be very rewarding and lucrative. We need to develop apprenticeship programs that enable students to try out several possible jobs before they finalize an educational direction. And we need to pay people for their time, effort, skill and experience rather than only their degrees.

    We also need to be able to tell students who enter a field of study what their chances are of obtaining a job in the field–and whether other factors (such as GPA) are also necessary.

    1. Coach "TP" Parrish

      Everyone has a contribution to make in this world and some people are gifted with their hands. We need auto mechanics and the building trades. Along with inventors. Innovation comes from within and is cultivated in an environment that is conducive to produce the desired result. “Do what you are.”

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