The purpose of secondary education is to prepare kids for college education, according to the controversial No Child Left behind program. Only 30 percent of the kids that graduate high school will go on to also graduate from a four year college, according to the US Department of Education. With these percentages, it is curious why high schools would not offer more diverse course work for those not college bound for whatever reason. All that being set aside, what is the value of a four year education in the country today? Nurses and manufacturing jobs are both in short supply and neither requires a four year degree. An RN license is usually obtained after an associate in nursing degree and passing the N-CLEX. Manufacturing jobs require machinist, welding, or other technical skills acquired from our community college program, not a four year arts degree. Both of these jobs pay well and are hiring right now with no job shortage in the foreseeable future according to the Department of Labor.
Now, if you add the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's December 2011 discussion findings that screening applicants based on education may be discriminatory, some employers are removing education requirements from job descriptions. Personally, I am confused how asking for a degree that shows commitment to finish what an applicant started is a bad thing. The idea was if an applicant has a learning disability and could not complete the program, then it would be discrimination against the disabled. This is a bit of a stretch. The number one reason cited by drop outs is personal reasons (i.e. life got in the way of school). Learning disabilities did not even make the top 10 reasons, unless they could be bundled into the "it was too hard" category which again assumes a lot not in evidence. Even with all that said, human resources and recruiters still said formal education would be a tie breaker between two candidates otherwise well matched.
So with all of that on the table, why spend four years and thousands of dollars while stressing out about grades with no guarantee at the end? I say, because it is worth it. College graduates earn more money, own homes at a higher percentage rate, and have more stable career options long term. There are people that majored in French history that do not want to teach and cannot find a job in their field. This is not because of their degree; this was a lack of planning on what to do with the degree they earned after they earned it. Major in something relevant to the world and interesting to you, and success will happen. If that does not help, look at the recent recession and unemployment rates hitting 10 percent for the country. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the higher your formal education level, the lower your unemployment rate. For example, someone with a Master's degree had a 4 percent overall unemployment compared with a high school drop out, hovering at almost 15 percent unemployment.
College education will always be a factor in a career path; the education just gives you more options. It is expensive and stressful to go through college, and it may not be needed to earn your first "real" job. What if you want to move up in the company someday? Sure, you are the best RN or machinist on the team. Do you want to move into a leadership role someday? Did your technical program teach you those skills? Don't realize you need an education after you are passed for a promotion because the other applicant had formal education. Education is always worth it for personal and professional reasons; the statistical math shows the positive relationship between earnings and education. The anecdotal stories tell you the personal reasons why it is worth it.