Monday, May 25, 2015

Bachelor's Degree: A Sign of Education, of Seat Time, a Job Credential, or Merely the New HS Diploma?

I've been arguing against "college for all" for years:
America must break its “addiction” to bachelor’s degrees and become better acquainted with the financial benefits of one- and two-year degrees and certificates, an education researcher argued at a recent panel discussion about what level of higher education it takes to break into the middle class.

“When you ask people what they think about postsecondary education, they say ‘bachelor’s,’” said Mark Schneider, Vice President and Institute Fellow of the Education Program at the American Institutes for Research, or AIR.

“I think of this as a bachelor’s addiction which has to be broken and has to be changed,” Schneider said. “The contemporary bachelor’s degree takes too long, it’s too expensive and it’s not for everyone.”

Schneider presented wage-earnings data that show various one- and two-year degrees and several certificates enable holders to command salaries that surpass those of some bachelor’s degree holders.

Technical careers are particularly rewarding, Schneider said as he presented figures that show plumbers and technicians in a variety of fields that only require a certificate all earn upward of $71,000 — several thousand dollars more per year than many bachelor’s degree holders — a decade after they complete their educational program.

“Where you learn how to fix things, you win,” Schneider said.

The growth in associate’s degrees and other sub-baccalaureate credentials awarded has also outpaced that of bachelor’s degrees, 39 percent versus 18 percent from 2008 to 2013, respectively, figures provided by Schneider show.

Schneider made his remarks Monday at AIR during a social mobility lecture series titled “Do You Need a Bachelor’s to Join the Middle Class?”


MikeAT said...

As I recall one of the great things Governor Brown (not the idiot Moonbeam but the real governor Pat) did was support a junior college system to train workers for jobs in industry and encourage industry to locate in the (formerly) Golden State. What a concept.

pseudotsuga said...

I teach college, and I've been arguing against it, too.
Too many students in the classes who are nothing more than butts in seats--they can't do college level work, so why are they encouraged to go?
Oh, I know...butts in seats! All we have to do is dumb the material down, and PRESTO! everybody has a BA degree now (or a soft science BS).

Ellen K said...

I had a cousin who got caught up in drugs early on. He went to jail. But rather than wasting his time, he learned a trade. He came out of prison a certified plumber. He worked very hard to earn people's trust. He started his own business. He hired other people. Eventually he became a very wealthy man and now is retired. He went back to college just to prove to others that he could. Not everyone needs college. In fact the push to get everyone in college is hurting kids who need and want hands on jobs they can use right after high school. My college educated son is working as a car porter for a high end dealership-a job for which he doesn't need a degree. My son who dropped out of college makes more than the other two who went to school. As for the issue of seat time-that is something that drives me nuts. Our district allows students to make up seat time so that they don't absence fail. In almost every single case the kid admits they could have shown up, but simply chose not to. We are coddling kids and they are taking advantage of it. We are supporting laziness.

MikeAT said...


My sister has five children, all adults now and four of them have families. Over the weekend I asked her who made the most money and she said it was her oldest Chris. How has all of one semester of college. He took one semester at LSU and found out it was 't for him. He started construction and got into surveying. He is now a master surveyor and he making more than I am with a soon to be master's. College is not for everyone.

Another point I've made is college may be for someone, but not at 18 years of age. I've known friends of mine who put off college until the mid-late 20s and did much better than the youngesters. They were mature and not they were committed because they were using their own money. Funny how it works that way.

maxutils said...

It's got to be a three pronged attack, though: We need to bring back secondary electives, so students can find out what they like; teachers and especially counselors must work to remove the stigma of a non college prep track; and we need to win over parents. The last is the one that is not going to happen any time soon..

Ellen K said...

@Maxutils The problem is we have people at the top of administration and funding who still view being an engineer or accountant as a safe middle class job. Anyone who has read Pink's "A Whole New Mind" knows that any job that can be completed successfully as a routine can and will be outsourced. Americans' skills were always in innovation. And our current curriculum kills electives that work the other side of the brain. It's not an accident that Condi Rice, a brilliant human by any scale, is also an accomplished pianist. The development of the whole brain is what allows us to innovate. Instead we have high stakes testing where teachers by and large train kids in what I call regurgitative learning. Having been in the classroom for nearly 20 years I can tell you that many of our kids are less willing to take risks, less willing to make effort and less willing to do much more than the minimum. It does not bode well for the future. But as I tell my students-if you can read and write in our Brave New World, you will be running the show because many folks even with a high school diploma cannot read.