Teenagers today are growing up in a world where the clash between the old way of doing things and the new way of doing things has almost become a war.
College “Guarantees” Employment and Wealth
On one side of the battlefield is the tradition that students should strive from late elementary school on to get good grades and earn academic rewards with the goal of attending college. Until perhaps the late 1970s or early 1980s a college degree was almost a guarantee of a high-paying job and a lifelong career. The ultimate goal was to accumulate enough savings to retire and live out their golden years in comfort.
Unfortunately, the rising costs of a college education have made it nearly inaccessible to most students. Yet those who are attending college are not often getting much of an education for their money. Scandals involving colleges handing out high grades to keep star athletes eligible to play have been going on for years. Fluff classes like studying the relationships between the sexes from watching a TV show have become common.
There will, of course, always be fields of study where a college degree is a necessity: doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, etc. Many computer-centered jobs, such as website designers, can also still benefit from a college degree. There is a B.Des. degree for such a skill set.
The Accumulation of Debt
While there is financial assistance available, unless a teenager is eligible for a grant program or a scholarship, the money acquired from a financial aid program must be paid back after graduation. These debts are in addition to the letters graduates start receiving from the school soon after leaving asking for them to donate money to keep the school’s various programs running.
There is an argument to be made that ultimately, college grads do make more money than non-grads, but they also have more debt. This means that most of the extra money they’re making is going to pay bills and not to stimulate the economy by attending ball games or going on vacation.
Gaining Skills Without Going Into Debt
On the other side of the battlefield is the growing acknowledgment that a college degree is no longer a guarantee of a better job. The vast majority of current job listings only require a high school diploma. In her article “The diminishing returns of a college education,” Kathleen Parker speaks not only of the rising cost of a college education but the decrease in the fundamental core classes that used to teach students how to think and analyze. Skills that used to be a benefit of attending college.
Many teenagers are discovering that they can earn as much, if not more, money by pursuing a job in the construction trades. Students can choose from such fields as being an Electrician, Cosmetology, Aeronautics, Welding, etc. While their peers languish in college for four years earning their degrees, these youngsters are out serving an apprenticeship that is paying them income while they learn their chosen trade and eventually take the steps to get licensed. They’re already tax-paying members of the community in their early 20s. They finish such programs without debt, while their peers now must begin at the bottom by working a low-paying, entry-level job and figure out how to pay off their debts.
The Mike Rowe Works Foundation decries the trend in the United States over the past few decades to see jobs in the trades as being fit for lesser students who can’t qualify for college. “Pop culture has glorified the ‘corner office job’ while unintentionally belittling the jobs that helped build the corner office.” He asserts on the website for his foundation. He also talks about the trend towards fewer jobs requiring a college degree, causing more and more students to get their piece of paper only to discover there aren’t any jobs in their chosen field of study.
Whether or not to attend college is a decision each student must make, hopefully with the help of their parents or a responsible counselor. Prior to making it, they should be given all of the assistance they need in researching the actual availability of jobs and how much debt they’ll accumulate if they choose to attend college rather than a trade school or apprenticeship.