Young adults face an increasing chasm between the education system and a sustainable income.
To better understand the challenges, I’ve been reading “Higher Education in America” by Derek Bok, who was president of Harvard for 20 years.
To save you the time, here are some sobering facts:
- Half of undergraduates don’t depend upon their parents for support. 80% of them work during college with 1/3rd of them holding down full-time jobs.
- 1/3rd of students who enter a 4 year college do not earn a degree within the next 8.5 years.
- Only 45.9% of high school graduates make it through college. And that number is dropping.
- Obama set a goal of 60% of young Americans earning some sort of degree by 2020.
- 2/3rds of college students “strongly agree” they’d work harder during high school if they knew what college was really like.
While we can blame the college system, the reality is that the K-12 system doesn’t prepare students for college-level work.
Other countries has this solved, but in the United States, there is no coordination between the high school and college systems.
They are completely separate.
And because of this disconnect, students of high school age don’t understand why they are going to college.
Ask anyone in high school this question and you’ll see first-hand how deep this problem is.
We’re shifting away from the classical, liberal education to vocational skills– focusing on jobs, not degrees.
The burden of research universities to publish, expand extracurricular programs, enhance facilities, build the sports programs, and answer to the state has created runaway inflation in tuition costs.
The for-profit institutions care only about helping students get jobs– so there are no dormitories, football teams, or research grants.
And as a result, folks like University of Phoenix and Devry are growing the fastest.
And community colleges, though looked down upon as “low prestige”, are highly practical.
We need to challenge the notion that all high schoolers should aspire to get a four year degree.
This is not to say that they shouldn’t continue to get an education or be forced to work a blue collar job.
Rather, we should remove the stigma of not going to college, leaving college for certain trades that require it.
While it’s true that folks who have a college degree, especially from a prestigious university, earn more, there is selection bias.
The more talented folks believe they MUST go to college, leaving the rest to work in retail and drive trucks, so it would seem.
This is not slamming colleges, in general.
I am saying that if we had stronger vocational programs for high school graduates, colleges would be more effective.
For example, we could eliminate remedial programs, which are expensive and have a high failure rate, anyway.
It’s too much to ask colleges to find students jobs by the time they graduate.
The K-12 system should equip students with basic communication skills.
Administering the Myers-Briggs or SAT isn’t enough, though a convenient measure of personality and aptitude.
Working professionals and college staff in the local community should be regularly involved with high schools.
Then students can decide with open minds whether college is right for them, and if so, how to prepare.
College has become the new high school. Would you agree?
If you’re uncharitable, you might call it extended babysitting for 4 or 5 more years.
If you’re realistic, you might consider rising tuition costs and debt load to be the next bubble, just like in the mortgage industry.
Technology and the pace of change is accelerating this issue.
Now you deal with machines at the checkout line, instead of humans. And eventually the machine will be driving your car and flying the airplane. Well, the computers already do fly modern aircraft already. But this is not a post about how technology is eliminating jobs, how software is eating the world, or how the robots are going to take over. You’ve seen enough visions of dystopia, where AI has disastrous, unforeseen outcomes.
It means that schools are not well-equipped to teach the minimums that employers expect in the workplace.
There are so many tools to learn and skills that can only be acquired through project collaboration.
Robots taking away mundane, repetitive labor has eliminated many blue collar jobs.
So if anything, the need for training in the face of automation is only going to increase.
70% of jobs today are in the service sector, nearly double what it was 50 years ago.
Do you remember playing Candyland?
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a clear mapping for high school students that showed the path from high school to each type of job?
Today, it feels more like Battleship, where you blindly guess, hoping for random success.
The mission of our company is to unite the triad of students, businesses, and partners (schools) to make this mapping possible.
Want to help us in this mission?
About the Author
You can find him quoted in major publications and on television such as CNN, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, and LA Times. Clients have included Nike, Red Bull, the Golden State Warriors, Ashley Furniture, Quiznos-- down to local service businesses like real estate agents and dentists. He's spoken at over 750 conferences in 20 countries, having flown over 6 million miles in the last 30 years to train up young adults and business owners. He speaks for free as long as the organization believes in the job-creation mission and covers business class travel.
You can find him hiking tall mountains, eating chicken wings, and taking Kaqun oxygen baths-- likely in a city near you.