The “college for all” idea is getting a second look, reports Ed Week.
“That whole space, between a high school diploma and a four-year college degree, has been overlooked,” says Anthony P. Carnevale, the director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, whose labor-market research was cited in the “Pathways to Prosperity” report. “The reform trajectory we’ve been on since ‘A Nation at Risk’ was a noble goal, but along the way, we’ve set aside every pathway but one, and we’ve left a lot of people behind.”
Most young Americans do not complete a four-year degree. Only 56 percent of four-year college students will earn a bachelor’s degree by their mid-20s, points out Pathways to Prosperity.
Two thirds of the jobs created in the United States by 2018 will require some postsecondary education, but of those, nearly half will go to people with occupational certificates or associate degrees, according to data cited in the report. Many of those jobs carry decent wages, as well: One-quarter of those who hold such credentials earn more than the average bachelor’s-degree holder, the report says.
However, many educators and education reformers fear lowering expectations for disadvantaged and minority students. Steering students toward vocational certificates or associate degrees will form an “educational caste system,” according to Kati Haycock, the president of the Education Trust, which advocates for educational opportunities for low-income and minority students.
Only a third of young people complete a bachelor’s degree. Not surprisingly, the A students are the most likely to reach that goal. Making a four-year degree the universal goal means setting up most young people for failure.