Guest view: Let’s make good on the promise of education for everyoneNot all students will be attending college. Those who do not – for whatever reason – must be provided equal opportunity to develop their future career as those who do go on to college.
Not every child should go to college. Not every child wants to go, can afford to go or is capable of meeting the higher academic demands of university. Yet, parents and students have been led to believe that unless a student prepares for and goes to college at a cost of $40,000 to $120,000, they will never make it in the future workplace.
True, without a four-year degree, those students won’t go on to become teachers, doctors, city planners or attorneys. But there are many well paid and stimulating jobs out there that require skilled workers – I know for a fact that there’s a serious shortage of airplane mechanics in this region – but no college degree.
So what do we do? For the past 30 years, schools have placed so much pressure on students and their families to prepare for college only. At the same time, schools have taken away from students many excellent opportunities and experiences for future jobs that pay very well. As federal and state money for vocational education diminished, schools eliminated many of the great vocational programs that were available to all students.
This year’s estimated cost to attend college is $22,300, including tuition, room and board, books and fees. Compare that to vocational school costs in Minnesota that range from $4,000 to $8,000. Many of those are two-year programs, graduating a qualified candidate in half the time at between one-third to one-fifth of the cost.
Here are some of the problems being created by our narrow vision that students should only prepare for college and graduate from college:
• Approximately 36 million students are currently saddled with federal loan debts.
• The average federal debt is $25,250.
• The average undergraduate college student has eight to 12 students loans and it continues to get worse.
• One in two new college graduates in 2012 is jobless or underemployed.
• Some college grads who do not find jobs in their field will still be responsible for their students loans and must take jobs outside their field of study to pay off the loans.
There are numerous educational job opportunities available to students after high school at only a fraction of the cost and time, including nursing assistants, chefs, beauticians/ cosmetology, welders, mechanics, secretaries, truck drivers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, bookkeepers and more. The list has no limits, it only takes a student who has developed an interest and some understanding of what he or she can do based on their experiences in high school or at part-time work.
Even though technology is constantly changing – and educational programs must change in response – the most important thing our board members and educators must remember is to strive to create an interest, experience and a vision in students of possible future jobs or opportunities while they’re still in high school. Not all students will be attending college. Those who do not – for whatever reason – must be provided equal opportunity to develop their future career as those who do go on to college.
Even if a student does not go on to a vocational school or trade, the well-rounded student who is educated as a “whole student” can, for example, make sound daily and lifelong financial decisions, and fix basic plumbing, electrical, home and car problems. It always makes life more interesting and challenging if you are a little more independent and more self confident in every part of your daily life.
The world of work has changed dramatically over the past 30 years. College and vocational jobs have changed, so the high schools have to continually change and update their curriculum to meet those needs, not abandon them.
College is not for all students, so all the other career options and school must be given the same importance for students and their families. There is no “one size fits all” education. So we need to make sure all students and families have the tools and information they need to make sound decisions about their child’s future.
Cloquet resident Clarence Badger taught vocational classes in accounting and other business subjects for 28 years at Cloquet High School before he retired.