Commentary: Focus on Post-Secondary Education Shifting

It doesn't always have to mean college

Bridge magazine has a good article about the importance of encouraging students to have fulfilling careers in an area that best fits them rather than assuming more schooling means a greater education and always pushing them toward universities.

The piece is written by Glenda Price, president of the Detroit Public Schools Foundation and former president of Marygrove College. She wrote:

It is clear that post-secondary education is essential for most students. However there is too little attention given to the opportunities that advanced manufacturing, the skilled trades, and other non-degreed options might offer. We talk very little about careers that do not require a college degree. Too often we minimize the value of career programs that may be the best option for many young people. We rarely say, 'Yes, aspire to college, but perhaps not right now.'

Having spent the majority of my professional life in higher education, I saw firsthand the sad stories of students who acquired significant debt, but did not attain a degree. I watched the loss of self-confidence and self-worth that comes with academic failure.

This is particularly good advice right now for several reasons.

The first is that pushing all students to go to college, and assuming that more schooling always equals more educational attainment, harms individuals and society. A report from the National School Clearinghouse Research Center began tracking students in 2006 and shows that 54.1 obtained a degree within six years. In other words, the current higher education system is extremely inefficient at actually producing college graduates.

The second is that Gov. Rick Snyder wants to increase the amount taxpayers spend on Michigan's 15 public universities by $80 million. There is no evidence that doing so will lead to more graduates or a better state economy, and only 1 percent of Michigan residents say spending more on public universities is a good way to use the state surplus, according to an EPIC MRA poll.

There are a lot of reasons students pursue more schooling, but the most important is to find better job opportunities.

The current system is encouraging people to pursue areas that are not worth the cost and ending up with one of the worst results possible — going to college, taking on debt, wasting time and leaving with no degree. That's not good for anyone.