Quick Takes – White House College Reforms

Quick Takes - White House College Reforms

The White House is seeking new educational reforms to increase college affordability and accessibility to more Americans.

College Presents Opportunity for Student Growth Beyond Solely Academics

Even with the rising cost of education and the low pay expected when students graduate, the college experience should never be measured in terms of cost. Simply using money to judge the worth of a once-in-a-lifetime experience defeats the main purpose of the college experience altogether.

The purpose of college is to satisfy the curiosity of students who want to learn more about their interests, as well as subjects that they never thought they would pursue. Some classes might not have clear connections to a future job but benefit students, nonetheless. UCSD’s general education requirements, such as Thurgood Marshall College’s time consuming Dimensions Of Culture, Eleanor Roosevelt College’s Making of the Modern World and Revelle College’s Humanities sequence, aren’t designed to torment students with unnecessary work, but rather to inform students about the world they live in to become better citizens.

College is also a crucial time that allows students to grow. According to former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala, going to college and living on campus helps students mature. In an article for the New York Times, Shalala characterizes her campus experience as a fun and learning experience that prepared her for professional work environments. The university experience allows students to transition from handling relationships and problems with roommates and colleagues to communicating and working with coworkers and bosses.

There are additional rewards for going to college, like the fond memories of cramming a midterm or a final with friends late at night or meeting new friends, but college is much more than a fun experience. Going to college is an opportunity like no other that has benefits that cannot be appropriately compared to its cost.

— Hugo Wong, Contributing Writer

A University Experience is Not the Only Viable Avenue to Success

Attending college has become a precedent for success while its alternatives continue to be overlooked and underfunded. An individual’s education should be guided by his or her strengths and aspirations, not by looming expectations for academic achievement.

In glorifying the university experience, societal standards have marginalized vocational and technical careers, overlooking the fact that blue-collar and trade-specific occupations are just as functionally relevant to society as those earned with a college degree. Trades like plumbing, welding and construction management, for example, have a high demand for labor but are hindered by a shortage of able workers.

Many people possess skills that can be tailored and applied in a professional environment without attending a university. The current lack of emphasis on vocational training has led to a skill shortage in the U.S., creating a need for the revitalization of the manufacturing industry. Apprenticeship programs have been sidelined, and according to R. Thomas Buffenbarger, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, 98 percent of federal money is focused on students bound for college, leaving less than 2 percent for vocational and technical training.

Equal opportunity education calls for not only the availability, but also the promotion of vocational programs beginning at a high-school level. The trade school alternative accounts not only for students who lack an interest in a four-year university, but also for individuals who prefer specialty to an all-inclusive institution. As society evolves, so too must the single-minded view of education; success should be defined not by the socially constructed standards of achievement, but rather by the interests and specialized development of the individual.

— Morgan Jong, Contributing Writer

Increasing Prevalence of College Degrees Marginalizes Their Value

Every college student hears horror stories of overeducation and underemployment after graduation. Greater college accessibility may raise average education levels and serve as a benefit to our nation overall, but to college graduates, it means more intense competition for jobs.

The Center for College Affordability and Productivity reports that almost half of employed college graduates’ jobs should only require a high school education. Despite current workers’ overqualification, Georgetown University projects that as much as 60 percent of jobs will require college degrees by 2018. The statistics show a society that pressures its youth to earn a degree but doesn’t furnish appropriate employment.

Sociologists explain this phenomenon with the concepts of credential inflation and educational devaluation. Credential inflation occurs when holding a degree becomes so common that jobs which high school graduates could have filled ten years ago become the norm for degree holders displaced by greater competition. In turn, this leads to educational devaluation, the process by which a degree results in less of an advantage against other job applicants.

Earlier in 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau reported 40 percent of Americans over 25 hold a degree, compared to 1950 when less than half of Americans even finished high school. In the first half of the 20th century, a high school diploma meant middle class income, whereas now the standard has risen to a Bachelor’s degree, keeping the American Dream as elusive as ever.

As credential inflation spurs educational devaluation, applicants hunting for jobs appropriate to their educational level will need to pursue more advanced degrees to stay one step ahead of the game.

 Thomas Finn, Contributing Writer
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