Apparently a significant number of young adults do not value educational opportunities that are available to them after they graduate from high school.
Last week The Associated Press reported the findings of a poll that showed about 40% of Americans ages 13 through 29 believe a four-year college degree prepares people somewhat well, or even poorly, for today’s economy.
About half the people polled said their high school education provided the skills they need to obtain a good job after they graduate. About 45% say a high school diploma is good preparation for future successful workers.
The poll revealed differences of opinion along race and ethnicity lines. At least half young black and Hispanic Americans said high school is a good path to success, compared with 41% of young white Americans, according to the AP.
The poll’s findings are open to a wide range of interpretation, but some points need to be addressed.
One problem with interpreting the poll is that some people frame education as going to college or not going to college, or that education after high school requires a four-year degree. That leaves out trades programs and other good-paying careers that don’t necessarily involve a four-year college degree.
Indeed, states have invested billions of dollars in the past two or three decades to provide education opportunities for people whose career paths do not require a four-year degree. The poll also found that many young Americans are concerned about the cost of education. Nearly 8 in 10 said they think college affordability is a very or extremely serious problem, and a majority said they were at least somewhat concerned about debt. Of those with college plans, a majority said they were borrowing or planning to borrow loans to pay for tuition.
The horror stories over the cost of college may be scaring some people away. How many of us have heard of a person with a master’s degree or Ph.D. who is unable to find a job in his or her field and is instead dispensing lattes at the corner coffee shop?
In some ways, young Americans are right to be worried, Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, told the AP. The transition to adult independence is taking place later in life, he said. Education requirements for good jobs have grown, and there are fewer available to young people.
Of course, college graduates shouldn’t think their futures are secure. Artificial intelligence and offshoring jobs can replace the work of some people even with advanced degrees, but you can’t offshore the work of a plumber or an electrician.
There is an old saying, authorship unknown, that goes, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Education is expensive in money, time and sacrifice. As with any endeavor, it opens a person to the possibility of failure. Education after high school requires careful planning that goes beyond the uninformed or incomplete opinions of a young person’s peers.
What we have here is failure to communicate: A large number of young people have not gotten the message that a high school diploma is the beginning of a person’s education, not the end. High school students or graduates who end their learning at age 18 likely will regret it before they hit 28 or 38.