Should your son or daughter earn a college degree? I know college is not for everyone.
However, if you want a future for your children that equals the opportunity you had in your life, an undergraduate college degree is nearly imperative. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 4.7 percent of those with college degrees are unemployed in 2010.
The 2010 high school graduation season is now just a memory. Even though we celebrate the accomplishment of commencement from high school with gifts and praise, it is not the ticket to life’s success it once was. Unfortunately, that is the cold hard truth and we cannot go back.
My father-in-law has an eighth grade education, and he was an aircraft mechanic at Alameda Naval Base. He was able to buy a house in San Jose, a car, send his four children to private schools and vacation in Tahoe every year on one military aircraft mechanics salary.
As opposed to past generations, high school graduates are unable to obtain the number of high-paying jobs that were obtainable a generation ago. The U.S. has been transformed from a manufacturing-based economy to a knowledge-based interconnected global one.
Some say that a college education is equivalent to a high school education four decades ago. My father-in-law’s story could never be played out the same today. He was never unemployed.
The United States ranks seventeenth when compared to all major industrialized nations among those with four year degrees. In addition, we have a high school dropout crisis in this state and country where over 30 percent of the students that begin high school never graduate.
This reality dooms the high school dropout to a life of underemployment, unemployment and minimum wage jobs.
There should be no doubt that education serves as a gateway to increased life options and opportunities. Those with college degrees are generally more tolerant of the perspectives and views of others.
Although, I wonder sometimes about that when I see our democracy play out in the halls of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate, our own State Capital — and I must admit even on local school boards.
I believe that college prepares us to see multiple sides of issues and this is an essential quality of life in the 21st century, especially in these contentious times. I believe this is true irrespective of what side of the political aisle for which one aligns.
With yesterday’s passing of U.S. Senator Robert Byrd (WV), it was evident that his perspective changed with education and experience. Amazingly, while in his 20s Senator Byrd was the Exalted Cyclops of the KKK in the 1940s.
After going to night school for 11 years he graduated with a law degree from American University’s Washington College when he was 46 years old. Even though he voted against the Civil Rights Act in 1964 — which he viewed as a huge mistake — he was able to endorse Senator Obama for President in 2008.
Upon taking office, President Obama set an ambitious national goal of increasing the number of undergraduate degrees in the U.S. by 60 percent in the next decade. In order to meet this goal, we must refer to individuals with some college, as the illustrative example of Senator Byrd gives us, who are in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. Over 50 million Americans fit into this category.
They can complete a college degree in just a few years, and therefore boost the productivity of our American work force. We must be bold enough to fund higher education so our public institutions of higher learning can accommodate the increased enrollment.
I strongly believe in vocational and career technical education as an important cornerstone of our secondary system of schooling. We must invest more in this area now.
As I said, college is not for everyone. Still, we must come to the realization that today we do not have the work force needed for our information-based global economy to prosper. Unless we reduce the high school dropout rate, and increase the college graduation rate, we are on a collision course with our future.
According to history, the decline and fall of the Roman Empire took over three centuries. I fear that in 2400 A.D., if we are not doomed by other man-made catastrophes before then, textbooks in other lands will chronicle America’s decline and eventual fall.