Clinton Talks Up Vocational Education

Domestic policy minutiae have understandably not been at the forefront of debates this election season, which is shaping up to be an historic referendum on the liberal-democratic wold order rather than a routine contest between the time-worn prescriptions of left and right. But one of Hillary Clinton’s specific policy ideas in last night’s address is worth highlighting nonetheless:

And here’s something we don’t say often enough: College is crucial, but a four-year degree should not be the only path to a good job.

We’re going to help more people learn a skill or practice a trade and make a good living doing it.

These remarks echo Clinton’s comment during the primaries that America should “get back to really respecting vocational and technical work.” The Democratic nominee deserves credit for challenging the typical Boomer-progressive consensus on this issue, which holds that we should be shepherding more and more people four-year diploma factories, even as the student debt burden grows and the educational value of the BA is increasingly called into question. And education system that emphasized practicable skills could reduce unemployment rates, accelerate of social mobility, and diminish the bifurcation between the college-educated upper-middle class and Americans who would rather not spend four years of their lives in pursuit of a BA.

That said, Clinton’s higher education plan includes an ill-conceived expansion of tuition subsidies for colleges and universities, which threatens to further inflate the higher education bubble and undermine efforts to beef up technical education. Here’s hoping that, if elected, Clinton will honor her promise to respect vocational work seriously, and supplement her tuition plan for aspiring professionals with measures to support aspiring welders, carpenters, and mechanics.

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