Thursday, July 26, 2007

College education - is it for everybody?

As big of a fan that I am of obtaining a good education, I'm going to say something that I'm sure a lot of folks will find controversial. I don't think that everyone needs to obtain a four-year college education. That's right! In fact, I think that our country's emphasis on pursing a college education actually does a disservice to millions of American children.

Now, before you think that I've lost my mind, hear me out.

A college education is a great thing to have, and I can speak from experience. I personally hold both bachelor's and master's degrees from respected universities, and there's no doubt that the education I received opened many doors for me in my information technology career.

However, I'm just not convinced that a college degree is the right path for everyone, especially those high school students who may not be adequately prepared to go on to that next step, or may not have the desire to do so. Too many kids end up going to college unprepared, racking up thousands of dollars in debt, and still don't graduate. This is demonstrated by the fact that some of the universities in the state of Michigan, including Eastern Michigan University and Wayne State University, have six-year graduation rates below 40%.

The problem is that too many of our public schools perform a good job of preparing students for the rigors of a university education, at the expense of those students who may have their sights set on going into a career that doesn't require a four-year degree. This is especially true within the Detroit Public School (DPS) system.

If you're at all familiar with DPS, then you must be aware that, of the district's schools, only three are really considered college-preparatory (no need for me to mention the names). This is great if you or your kids are fortunate enough to attend one of these schools. But what about the other twenty or so high schools within DPS? I'm not convinced that these schools are adequately preparing their students for the world of work or vocational training, much less college.

This is really unfortunate, because, contrary to popular convention, there are well-paying respectable vocations available that don't require a four-year degree. However, they certainly require some formal training beyond high school, such as an apprenticeship or a two-year degree. Below are the median salaries in the Detroit area of some blue-collar occupations, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics:
  • Electricians - $62,040
  • Plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters - $56,930
  • Air traffic controllers - $111,780
  • Welders - $43,950
  • Machinists - $41,840
  • Numerical tool and process control programmers - $48,350
  • Production supervisor - $62,100
  • HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) technicians - $47,850
In comparison, here are the median salaries for occupations that typically require a four-year degree:
  • Librarians - $53,790
  • Archivists - $42,660
  • Mental health counselors - $38,030
  • Chemists - $58,020
  • Zoologists and wildlife biologists - $51,440
I hope my point is getting across. As a society, we need to make sure to take just as much care of those high school students that are college-bound, as well as those who may have other ambitions. With the right training, students can go into a variety of careers that will allow them to sufficiently support themselves.

Besides, think about how much the plumber charged you the last time he came out to fix a problem at your house. I'm sure he wasn't cheap.

1 comment:

Carlo Gobba said...

I couldn't agree more.

The philosophy that you should go to school and get good grades so that you can get out and have a safe & secure job is a philosophy our parents used. They were accustomed to the mindset of having an employer that would have you for 35 years until retirement.

Todays world has changed and while a college education or higher education for that matter may help, todays world is no guarantee for those with a college degree.

At 21, without a college degree, I made over $90,000. Every year since, I have been in the $100,000 to $200,000 income bracket. I don't consider myself special however, a little common sense, and a passion for what you do goes a long way! *Being learning based is also essential to anyone who wants to succeed. (I mean schooling and education did not stop for me at any time. I have always read books, attended seminars, etc...) If you love what you do, you will always want to stay on top of your game!