Cultural Inertia and Future of Higher Education
Student debt is becoming a central question in political debates. Tuition continues to rise at an unstable rate. Economic instability, especially in light of unpredictable effects of automation, shrouds the future job market in a cloud of mystery. It’s no surprise that after years of expanding educational institutions, people are beginning to doubt the need for higher education. We can continue to laud the accomplishments of higher education, but speaking to a few college graduates who express feelings of despair over the job market while being enslaved by their student debt can quickly change our tune.
With the end of high school also comes the end of mandatory education. Yet, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, “69.7 percent of 2016 high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities”. Such a high percentage suggests that higher education seems more like an extension of mandatory education than a choice. The “choice” seems to have receded into the background of social expectations. “Of course you should go to college” concerned parents, teachers, and friends are supposed to say to all high school students. Yet, sometimes we need to review some of the facts and trends about higher education, especially in relation to people’s long-term goals.
White Collar Jobs
When it comes to students who tend towards more practical expectations from college degrees, there are no cookie-cutter answers.
For those looking to find work related to their degree, an article posted by The Best Schools reviews the highest paying jobs that only require a Bachelor’s degree.
For students expecting economic security from a bachelor’s degree alone, the most secure professions tend to be some form of engineering. But everyone knows that most people end up working in fields unrelated to their respective college majors.
For students looking to enter non-engineering fields, there is often skepticism about the skills acquired in higher education. Many claim that in the “real world” life experiences often outweigh formal education. The catch-22, though, is the stigma against hiring people without formal degrees.
One novel model, attempting to reach out to young people with business aspirations, is Praxis. This program offers a one year program with a “6-Month Pre-Apprentice Bootcamp” followed by a “Guaranteed 6-Month Paid Startup Apprenticeship”. By the end of the program, students have a motivated network of fellow participants, work experience, and the program cost is covered through the apprenticeship -- i.e. no debt! Besides being small and highly selective, this program only accommodates people with general business aspirations -- i.e. it isn’t for everyone. Yet, the future may hold many new programs to help high school students successfully transition into white-collar jobs, which traditionally expect an undergraduate degree as an entry requirement.
According to U.S. News, there are many financially stable jobs that do not require college degrees. Besides manual labor work, the list includes many positions as various kinds of technicians and medical assistants. Even though these jobs tend to offer lower starting salaries, they fulfill consistently needed services, and they don’t require people to take on major debt to get the degree.
Perhaps the worst financial scenario would be someone who went to college, took out students loans, and then ended up working in a job that doesn’t require a degree. The question, then, is how can adults guide students in the direction of the trade work when there is so much social pressure to send everyone to college? Given the complex set of social conditions and considerations connected to any individual, there probably is no easy answer to this question. Yet, discussing this question more often, could assist people in reassessing the unwarranted expectations that they project onto students.
Perhaps discussions that reduce education to economics and numbers are also misguided. Most Liberal Arts schools, for instance, traditionally don’t promise their students access to professions with salaries commensurate with tuition. Many Liberal Arts students expect intellectually challenging experiences, which can be inspired by a sense of civic duty or some form of spiritual exploration. Educational goals cannot simply be reduced to analyses of tuition costs and projected salaries. Yet, explaining this financial risk to a high school student seems a daunting task.
Education & the Future
Knovva Academy strives to develop optimal educational programing. In order to achieve this goal, we recognize the necessity to address the dynamic needs of students. With all the major changes going on in the US and across the world, we believe that now is the appropriate time to review and discuss generally accepted expectation about education.
Just between the accelerating development of technology and growing political unrest, the future -- both far and near -- are difficult to imagine. Today, we live in an age of uncertainty. Instead of telling students to go to school out of cultural inertia, we should be discussing the why. Why do we advise students to go to college?
Instead of recapitulating conventional ideas about educational paths, now is the time to guide students towards a new, and potentially better future. Feel free to reach out and share your thoughts or suggestions about the future of higher education.