mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Not Time Served
Students Seeking Skills, Not Degrees

A rare sign of sanity in higher education: students are doing an end run on the ‘time served’ model of degree attainment at colleges, and instead are attending university in order to pick up only the skills they need. The Hetchinger Report:

Skill builders in California are concentrated in construction, real estate, computers, law enforcement, and early childhood education, according to Kathy Booth, co-author of the study [of the California Community College System]. For most of them, the college credits led to wage increases. Students who took courses in information technology, for instance, saw their pay increase by 5 percent, and skill builders at California community colleges overall saw their median salaries go up from $49,800 in 2008-09 to $54,600 in 2011-12, the system reports. […]

“The workforce is changing so dramatically and the economy is changing so dramatically that people need to keep going back to school to get the skills they need to stay employed or seek new employment,” Booth said.

Schools are responding to these students by creating specialized programs, including short-term programs to help the unemployed return to the workforce with updated skills. Some colleges may even offer certificates, though the skills learned will probably be more valuable than the credential.

Of course, some of these skill seekers already have a degree, and are either supplementing their skill set or trying to correct a poor decision to seek an esoteric degree as an undergraduate.

Nevertheless, it’s a start—towards both a saner model of education and a more flexible workforce that can better roll with the punches that a post-blue economy is likely to keep throwing their way. We hope this becomes a much more mainstream option for students, and is also recognized by employers as an equivalent or superior marker of qualification for a prospective employee. More please, and faster!

Features Icon
show comments
  • lukelea

    Meanwhile, for the tens of millions of our fellow citizens of all races without a high school diploma, both native-born and immigrant (legal and illegal), I wish WRM and his minions would cover stories like this, instead of leaving them to some no-name journalist who’s not even mainstream:

    They are here now. They will be here tomorrow. They will be here for decades to come. They are not going away. We need to broaden the discourse in this American democracy — or republic, or what ever you want to call it — to include a decent concern for the welfare of all our citizens. Is this too much to ask? What are the consequences if we continue to ignore this ever-growing problem? Come on guys, write!

    • Andrew Allison

      Luke, I’m confused. The story to which you link seems irrelevant to your point, which I take to be the education of “our fellow citizens of all races without a high school diploma, both native-born and immigrant (legal and illegal)”, not Mexicans. I agree with you that secondary education in this county is a much greater problem than post-secondary. It’s not just the appalling drop out rate and it’s results ( but also that most of those who do graduate lack the education the should have. The media should, as you write, be all over this. Among the facts presented in the link is that just 2000 High Schools across the country account for half of the dropouts. Seems like a very easy target with enormous potential benefit to society as well as the students. Too bad our politicized Dept. of Education is too busy trying to protect the existing education infrastructure (sse previous post) to do something so useful.

    • Jim__L

      The age-old dream of government of the philosopher-kings, by the philosopher-kings is being realized in our times.

      It’s no wonder that it’s also become for the philosopher-kings, the rest of the population be da**ed.

      (Although thanks to business schools, along with institutions like Goldman Sachs, the best-and-brightest as likely to be robber-barons as philosopher-kings.)

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service