Not to state the obvious, but there is no single educational path that is right for everyone.
For some students it will be attending a college or university, earning a bachelor’s degree and perhaps going on to a master’s, even a doctorate. For others it might be community college or an apprenticeship. The options are as numerous and varied as the career paths they lead to.
There is a lot of talk in our local school systems about change and helping students to be successful once they graduate from high school.
The first question that must be asked is how does one define success? By educational debt? By current income? By long-term earning potential? By life experiences and personal growth? By one of these things? By all of them?
These are all things students should keep in mind when considering their end goal and the best way to get there.
The bachelor’s degree has been getting a bad wrap lately in America. The recession and ensuing new reality that many 20-somethings are un- or underemployed has drawn criticism of the wisdom of teaching all students to aspire to college.
Now we’re seeing school systems shift to how to get students into the workforce and living-wage jobs as quickly as possible. Our local systems are no exception.
Two area districts, Kent and Tahoma, have visions of partnering with local community colleges and tech schools. Tahoma hopes to build a new high school around the idea of having different vocational tracks. Kentlake High has plans to start a pre-nursing certification program in the fall.
I believe these programs will have good things to offer students and our communities at large. However, I also think that caution is in order lest we end up with the exact same problem, just in reverse.
Ultimately it comes down to this: students need to know the reality that awaits them when they choose a path.
Want to attend a university? That’s great. A university education often means that a student will acquire educational debt to pay for it. What kind of salary can they expect and how long should they plan to be paying off those loans? Want to be a psychologist or social worker? You’ll need a master’s. What are the long term outlooks for those fields?
On the other hand, college isn’t for everyone and not every career requires a four-year degree. Technical schools and community colleges can be great options as well. Yes, they will prepare you for a job in a short amount of time, but students need to know that often those programs prepare them for a single job. To advance often requires additional education or certification.
Students need to understand these things when they are making decisions about the future. If they understand those realities and are prepared for them, then the school systems are doing what they are intended to do.
After that, it’s up to each student whether they sink or swim.