‘College for all’ gets second look

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.

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Dave Saba

I usually agree with Joanne but have to disagree with your summary. Making college a universal goal does not have to mean most young people are set up for failure IF schools deliver a challenging curriculum to prepare them for higher education. Teachers need the training and the lessons to ensure that all students have a better chance of college success before we abandon the goal – which is what we do here at LTF – http://bit.ly/kItmSl


If we ‘re going to stick to the College For All mantra, then we will have to do a much better job of matching students with the specific type of higher education that has a high chance of succeeding for them. Fewer students in 4-year colleges (and this is not inconsistent with doing a better job of finding and nurturing talent among groups previously under-represented in 4-year institutions); fewer students pointlessly attempting an academic curriculum at 2-year colleges when they can’t pass the remedial courses that have to be taken first; more support for career ed programs at the CC’s that have proven to be effective in preparing students for high-skill jobs. Above all, recognition that once students are 18, we can’t force them to enroll, force them to stay in school, or force them to graduate. In other words, we’ll have to be OK with an attrition rate that we would not accept in high school.

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