So everyone needs to go to college? The President is pushing for everyone pursuing at least a year of education past high school. But that is far from the cheerleading we are now hearing from educationists and business leaders promoting everyone going to college.
A higher degree does correlate with a higher salary. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average pay for a worker is tied to the level of education they receive.
No high school diploma:
High school diploma:
Master degree or higher:
So why not encourage everyone to pursue a college degree and everyone will make a lot more money?
It doesn’t work that way. Already, in this economic downturn, college-degreed engineers are losing jobs. About 2000 licensed school personnel in Kansas are now unemployed, and the teacher “shortage” has temporarily shrunk as schools tighten their belts and class sizes grow.
More university graduates are having to take jobs well below their training. In an economic downturn, we have weigh the costs. One big cost that takes a majority of our tax dollars is education. As high as tuition costs are, for every dollar a college student personally pays towards their advanced education, Kansas taxpayers are putting in two dollars. Can Kansas afford to educate everyone at the collegiate level?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Employment Projections up to 2016 and presented in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the majority of jobs do not require a bachelor or higher college degree.
On-the-job-training of one month or less:
On-the-job-training up to a year:
On-the-job-training for more than a year:
Related work experience:
Vocational certificate at postsecondary level:
Bachelor degree and work experience:
This means that about 20 percent of U.S. jobs will require a bachelors degree or higher training, about one out of five. Yet, the proportion of Kansas high school graduates who are pursuing college work is approaching 75 percent. Only about a third of them succeeded in completing that degree in 5–6 years back in the 1980s and the same holds true today.
Kansas universities are being pressed to retain and graduate more students. Yes, we can make the coursework easier and inflate grades. But that does a disservice to the genuinely good students. And when lower-performing students are graded equal to deserving students, it cheapens our university degrees.
Kansas needs good car mechanics, custodians, construction workers, appliance repair workers, etc. It is good and respectable work that undergirds society. And from the data from the labor Department above, it is where we need four-fifths of our workers. It may be personally satisfying for a taxi driver to have a PhD degree, but as a society, we must decide if we can afford to foot two-thirds of that cost at public universities.
If the current economy shows us anything, it is that we can no longer afford to give out gold stars and M&Ms for mediocre performance. It is time for a “C” grade to again be the average grade, and for college admissions requirements in Kansas to kick up a notch. To do otherwise is unfair to the best students. Today, we just can’t afford to do otherwise.