Educational milestones are the mandates of American culture. First come high school diplomas, then college degrees, from associate’s to bachelor’s all the way to doctorates and medical degrees.
For the 2016-2017 school year in Ventura County, there is good news: High school graduation rates are rising. The rate of students graduating from high school (approximately 86 percent) is above the state average (82.7 percent). The bad news: Students graduating meeting the requirements to enter a California State University or University of California school ranked below the state average, 46.2 percent versus 49.9 percent. But going to college isn’t necessarily the right path for everyone, even high school graduates.
According to a recent report by California Competes, a public policy research institute, just over half of California’s college students complete their associate’s degrees in three years or bachelor’s degrees in six years. Even California State University, Channel Islands, reflects the issue of failure to complete the proper courses to obtain degrees, with an average of 20 percent of students dropping out their first year. CSUCI along with CSU Northridge, CSU Fresno and Portland State University recently received a grant to study the problem and find solutions.
Average student loan debt is another serious problem and consideration for students, with various studies showing a range of debt between $22,000 and $36,000, depending on the source. Suffice it to say, many, if not most, college students will have to accrue some debt to achieve their educational goals. Another issue — roughly 60 percent of college graduates aren’t going into their chosen fields of study for their careers, according to analysts with Liberty Street Economics in their 2013 report, “Do Big Cities Help College Graduates Find Better Jobs?” Also, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2015, over half of college graduates are underemployed.
So what happens to the 14 percent of high school students who don’t graduate? Or the other half of college students who drop out? Or even the college graduates with student debt who end up underemployed? We have to wonder what opportunities could have helped students before they even graduated from high school.
Over the last several years, there has been a call to bring back high school vocational training such as auto body technology, aviation maintenance, audio production and real estate. To judge all children as capable of earning high school and college degrees and then to guarantee careers in adulthood in the industries of their choices is clearly and abundantly shortsighted. We urge our local education officials and elected representatives to consider pathways to the workforce for all, not just the ones who are able to get high school and college degrees.