Kingsport Times News. September 25, 2022.
Editorial: College isn’t the only path to success
As the cost of college continues to skyrocket and enrollment continues to plummet, the nation’s post-secondary institutions are being forced to evaluate their value proposition. Students and parents who face decades of college debt are being told that successful careers and six-figure incomes await them elsewhere.
Joining that chorus is none other than Kingsport Mayor Pat Shull, who says that “somehow in the U.S. we’ve gotten slightly off track in our general attitude about higher education. While there is no question that practically all adults need some advanced education/training beyond high school, it seems like we have overemphasized the necessity of getting a four-year college degree.”
Mayor Shull says that young people “can have a very rewarding career, both through monetary and job satisfaction by pursuing important trade occupations. Kingsport is in dire need of plumbers, electricians, automation workers, carpenters, welders, mechanics, etc.”
“I salute Dr. Richard Shadden, Kingsport City Schools director of career/technical and post-secondary education, and Dr. Jeff Moorhouse, city schools superintendent, for the outstanding work that they have done to show our students that they can succeed in a variety of ways. And I honor and respect those who choose a productive career that doesn’t necessarily entail four years of college,” the mayor said.
Educationdata.org reports that “The average annual cost of tuition at a public four-year college is 37 times higher than tuition in 1963. The cost of tuition increased 31.4% from 2010 to 2020; after adjusting for currency inflation, college tuition has increased 747.8% since 1963.”
There are a variety of reasons why, but Realcleareducation.com finds that “the American public is becoming disenchanted with education’s promise to transform lives, if recent surveys are to be believed. With each year, more people — especially young Americans still paying off their college loans — are saying that the cost of college is too high, the debt burden is too crushing, and the payoff isn’t worth it.”
Meantime, programs in the skilled trades are booming as society places less value on traditional higher education. Indeed, nearly a third of American billionaires didn’t graduate from college, people such as Bill Gates, Sir Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg. Given these trends, colleges face an uncertain future, and it may be past time for a paradigm shift in U.S. higher education.
In addition to the professions, the future may lie with community colleges which often combine general education and trade skills to produce graduates well-prepared to interact with the world and put real-world skills to immediate use.
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