Day: January 10, 2016

4 Reasons You Shouldn’t Join the Peace Corps (and 1 You Should)

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Why I’m telling some of my students not to go to college

WELDING: Linn-Benton Community College

April 23rd, Albany, Oregon, USA Welding Class. Teacher: Dave Ketler Linn-Benton Community College, Albany, Oregon. Photograph by Stuart Isett

BY JILLIAN GORDON  April 15, 2015 at 1:23 PM EST

Editor’s Note: This month, thousands of students across the country will receive college admission letters and will have to make their decision on which college or university to attend. But teacher Jillian Gordon argues that this decision could be the first step on an expensive, illogical path for many students, not all of whom will need a four-year degree or benefit from a college environment.


As the flowers start to bloom and it begins to look a little greener outside, many teachers are feeling the weight of winter stress lifting off of them. But the opposite is happening to high school seniors across the country who are in the midst of making a tough decision: where, and if, they should go to college.

I teach agricultural science, an elective course at my school. I am lucky that the students in my room walk in each day because they made the choice to be there, and for the most part, this allows me to connect with these students in a way that is more difficult in the core class environment. I get to know them, their families and their siblings. Because of this connection, it is really important for me to talk to my students about their plans for after graduation.

I tell many of my students not to go to a four-year college. Many of you are gasping at this point, I’m sure. But with student loan debt reaching an all-time high of $1.2 trillion (surpassing credit card debt), and little research to support that the investment is worth it, I am cheating my student by not encouraging them to make the best choice for themselves. And a four-year degree is not always synonymous with “best choice.”

A bachelor’s degree is not a piece of paper that says “You’re a success!” just as the lack of one doesn’t say “You’re a failure!”

There is an epidemic of college students across the country choosing majors at four-year universities that do not lead to a viable career path after graduation. The “underemployment rate” for young college graduates is 44 percent. What does that mean? Almost half of the recent graduates in the United States are employed in positions that do not require a college degree.A few years ago, I worked closely with a student who very much wanted to be a reporter. She was passionate about it, and spoke about her dreams with wide eyes and a contagious smile. The issue? This student’s writing was subpar at best, and her talents, while immense, were not shown through her academic ability. She simply did not have the grades to make it through four more years of college.

Guilty of it myself, I watched as all of her teachers smiled at her and encouraged her to follow her dreams, no one having the courage to push in her a direction that was more logical for her to take. We smiled and watched as she dropped out of college and moved back home with no back-up plan in place. I had to learn the hard way that sometimes it’s our jobs as teachers to tell students no, otherwise life will do it for them — and life is rarely ready to catch them when they fall.

We are doing a disservice to our students. We are assuming all students need the same thing: that they need to go to college. When we know that it may not be the best choice for them, we are cheating them of reality and a worthy, challenging education simply because they are the textbook version of a “good student.” We do not have the courage to tell them no, so instead, we let the much harsher voice of life do it for us.

Many may argue that getting a four-year college degree is the key to achieving the American dream and the only path to upward mobility in terms of economic prosperity.

But when my students can go to a two-year technical school for about $20,000, receive an associate degree in welding technology and reliably earn a wage of up to $59,000 (some specialties, like underwater welding, can command up to $90,000 and more, with experience), I find the idea of a four-year university, where students graduate with an average of $30,000 in loan debt, the least logical path of upward economic mobility.

For some of my students, a four-year university is by far the best option for them. But this isn’t the case for all students, and we need to stop pretending it is. A bachelor’s degree is not a piece of paper that says “You’re a success!” just as the lack of one doesn’t say “You’re a failure!” As educators, it’s time to stop pushing all of our students to go to college, and instead push them towards the path that is right for them.

Jillian Gordon is a student teacher in agricultural education at Ridgemont Public Schools in Ridgeway, Ohio. Original article was posted here.

Photo is here.

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Why You Should Really Go To College, In 2 Charts

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Some people might tell you not to go to college. Don’t listen to them.

People who go to college make more money, a lot more money, than people who don’t. A chart from the latest Economic Report Of The President, a giant bundle of charts and economic analysis and policy pitches compiled annually by the White House, puts this plainly:

go to college

As you can see, male college graduates make about twice as much every year as male high school grads. The effect is even stronger for women: Female college grads make about 2.25 times as much as high school grads. That is mainly because less-educated women are penalized a lot more than less-educated men.

As you can also see from the chart, the income gap between people who graduated from college and people who didn’t has exploded since about 1980, which also happens to be about the same time middle-class wages started to stagnate and income inequality was starting to yawn wider.

Yes, college is expensive — too expensive for many people. Yes, students are gettingcrushed by loan debt, particularly black students. And yes, even having a college education may not be enough to keep your wages from falling, as this chart from the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-focused think tank, shows:

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Despite these problems, college is still worth it. As you can see from the chart above, wage growth has been lousy for everybody since the Great Recession, but it has been much worse for people without college degrees.

Updated to add one huge caveat: People who started but did not finish college seem to have suffered worse income declines than anybody else, according to this chart. Not exactly sure why that would be, and that certainly makes student-loan debt more onerous. Still, you can’t finish college if you never start it.

The answer is not to tell kids to skip college — the answer is to make college more accessible to everybody.

Original article, Why You Should Really Go To College, In 2 Charts, was originally posted here.

Photo is from here.