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On Liberal Pathways to Prosperity with a Rehash of the Same Information Every Two Pages

A study recently released by the Harvard Graduate School of Education seeks to solve the growing disconnect between the job market and academia by focusing on job training and education.

With barely half of the students enrolled in four-year colleges completing their bachelors degrees in six years and even less completing an associates degrees in three years, it is evident that college-prep should not be the only focus of High School. Indeed, many students drop out because the relationship between their courses and possible jobs is blurred.

This is not only a problem in High School, but college as well. With the variety of courses required for graduation being confusing at best and alluring course offerings like Zombies in Popular Media, Philosophy and Star Trek, and Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame, one can easily be distracted from reality. Moreover, the connection between education and career can be befuddling— what can you do with a history or Latin degree? What kind of job can you get a bachelor’s degree in economics?

What’s more, while Community Colleges face lower funding, they often produce graduates that earn more than those who earn a degree from a four-year university. “Pathways to Prosperity”, the study recently published by the Harvard Graduate School of Education reports, “27 percent of people with post-secondary licenses or certificates—credentials short of an associate’s degree—earn more than the average bachelor’s degree recipient.”

Professor Vedder of the Ohio State economics department made similar comments in his October article “Why Did 17 Million Students Go to College?stating ” the growing disconnect between labor market realities and the propaganda of higher-education apologists is causing more and more people to graduate and take menial jobs or no job at all” noting that more than 317,000 waitresses have college degrees.

“Pathways to Prosperity” calls for a larger focus on job training citing the success of other, mainly European countries, such as Germany. The report proposes that younger children should be more exposed to career information, older should be given the opportunity to participate in apprenticeships and internships, and career counseling should be improved as well as funding for certain college students.

The study calls for employers to take on larger responsibility. It argues that in Germany, with its well-known apprenticeship system, the investments that employers make in the system are offset by the work and other benefits they gain. It further contends that ” In Germany, for example, over 80 percent of young adults found jobs within six months of completing their education in 2007, versus just 48 percent in the U.S.”

In response to the study, Professor Vedder had this to say; “I am skeptical whether the provision of more job-related experiences to college students at public expense will necessarily lower the unemployment rate. Germany, cited as a model, had an median annual unemployment rate in the decade 2000-2009 of 9.85 percent, compared with a rate of 5.3 percent in the U.S.” In addition, Professor Vedder questioned the economic effects of such a change, ” The taxes used to support these efforts might crowd out other private sector activities that are equally or more job creating in nature.”

The commonality in Professor Vedder’s article and Pathways to Prosperity is this—there is a problem with the U.S. education system that can no longer be ignored. Classes on Lady Gaga and Star Trek are fun, but the transition between academia and the job-market needs clarity.


  1. Josh M says:

    The other consequence of our nation’s higher education fetish is that college degrees are being required by employers for positions that have no need for college degrees. I would say that if I’m hiring for an administrative assistant, a high school graduate with five years’ experience as an administrative assistant would be better suited for the job than a college graduate with no experience. I’ve also seen plenty of jobs that require master’s degrees that pay $10 an hour. This serves to not only further devalue a college degree, but also devalue job experience as criteria for employment.

  2. Betz says:

    I’ve been telling people the same thing for a while now – the BS degree has been greatly devalued in our time. The bachelors degree of today is now roughly equivalent as a means to finding a job and making a decent living as a high school diploma was 30-40 years ago.

    Unless you have a highly focused degree in technology or science, most degrees are autonomous; they just tell an employer that you are trainable, that you have demonstrated the ability to focus and concentrate on assignments, that you can think critically for yourself, that you have demonstrated good time management, and that you are malleable enough to learn new job-related skills.

    Another thing that I have been wondering – what is the quality of our graduates coming out of college? Its been said for a while that our high schools are graduating students that lag behind 20 some odd countries in categories like reading, writing, and math – countries like South Korea, etc. I haven’t seen a comparison with college grads, but I imagine its got to be something relatively close.

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