Monday, February 9, 2015

Is It Really about College Degrees, or Just About Wages

"You have to go to college." Or do you?

The discussion continues about the necessity of a college degree, as we struggle to close the "achievement gap" and increase the numbers of kids who are ready for college and careers. And that issue of "readiness" is the one that I've been troubled by lately. While US schools are sending more kids to college and producing more degrees than ever before, there is a growing "graduation gap" among the kids going on to post-secondary school. A study from the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy indicates a growing gap between the wealthier and poorer students in terms of degree achievement.

And, I am wondering about the push for degrees. It seems to me that education reformers are pushing more and more kids toward college and bachelor degrees for one simple reason:  more money and higher standard of living. We want to close the racial gaps in the middle and upper class, and we believe that the way families will increase status is through higher-paying, white collar jobs. If that's true, then the argument really isn't about degrees - it's about wages. Rather than telling people to go to college because that will give them access to higher paying jobs, we should instead be promoting and working toward higher wages for skilled labor. For, we know there are all sorts of people working in jobs that never required a degree.

And, that's OK.

Furthermore, while some may argue that we need to promote K-12 education, so that all students are qualified for and have the opportunity to "go to college," I question that logic. It seems to me that "readiness" for "college and career" are not often the same thing. And, promoting such an idea is actually quite inefficient. The "college/career" discussion is for another post.

But the truth about wages is clear.

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