Monday, May 04, 2009

College isn't for everybody

It might be elitist of me to think this, but college isn't for everybody. You shouldn't have to go to college to get a job that pays a living wage. You shouldn't have to pay for any education that is necessary to earn a living wage. Public high school (and middle school and elementary) should be sufficient.

Word on the street is that Obama is proposing to make Pell grants for college an entitlement like social security or medicare. It's supposed to make college affordable for everyone.

I'll be the first to agree that higher education is expensive, too expensive, and that it should not be cost-prohibitive. I don't think that college is only for the children of rich people. But I'm afraid of the growing belief that everybody needs to go to college, that if all you have is a high school diploma, then you're SOL for life.

Here's the way it should be:
  • Public K-12 education should be good. Really good. It should be as good as a liberal arts education at any top university. But it should be general ed.
  • Vocational schools and apprenticeships should abound and be respected, and they should adequately prepare people for jobs that don't actually require college, but jobs that require specific skills (cooking things, building things, fixing things, etc.).
  • Community colleges should be available for anyone who wants them. (As far as I know, they're already doing a really good job.)
  • Four-year colleges should be more affordable through the increased availability of grants, fellowships, scholarships, and loans. There should be less competition to get in and pay for it, since fewer people would be attending.
  • Professional schools and graduate education shouldn't take so long, since students get to college better prepared.
I think the way it is now, college is having to make up for the failure of K-12 education (which isn't really their fault), and as a result we have this inflated need for education. Obama shouldn't be putting the money into college; it should go to K-12 education.


  1. E., I agree. You should send this post as a letter to the administration through; I've no idea who will read it, but I'm sure someone will.

  2. Pre-teacher Sarah would have disagreed with you on this point; post-teacher Sarah cannot agree enough!

    Four-year and post-grad programs are not the best fit for all people. I think it is important for middle-school and high school faculty/staff to be supportive of the varied options you describe. Some of the schools I've worked at have been VERY four-year focussed; others advocated looking at what would be best for each student as an individual.

    Whatever the student wants to do, they should be able to without taking on a huge debt load.

    Personal Example: If a state requires teachers to get a graduate degree in order to keep their teaching license, HELP THEM PAY FOR IT.