Over at the Brookings social mobility blog, Michael Petrilli makes the case for beefing up vocational education programs and shepherding fewer students to four-year universities. A taste:
Education reformers are obsessed with getting many more low-income students “to and through” four-year colleges.… The trouble is, few children from poorer homes are likely to end up with a BA. As Andrew Kelly of the American Enterprise Institute shows in his chapter of my new book, just 14 percent of children from the bottom third of the income distribution will complete four-year degrees. Even if we doubled that number, most poor and working class kids will still need other paths to the middle class.… A better approach for many young people would be to develop coherent pathways, beginning in high school, into authentic technical education options at the post-secondary level.
Read the whole thing. As we’ve made a habit of arguing at Via Meadia the existing higher education system is crumbling, with 40 percent of borrowers in default on their student loan debts, even as wages for young graduates stagnate and tuition rises faster than inflation. Moreover, millions of students are spending a fortune on a four-year degree only to drop out, or else to graduate and land a job that didn’t require a BA. Pumping more money and more students into the higher education system would only exacerbate its inefficiencies. Policymakers need to think creatively about ways for students to learn the skills they need to earn a good living without the time and expense of a BA—and it’s clear that expanded technical education is one piece of the puzzle.