Every spring, millions of 18-year-olds graduate from high school and start on one of three paths: college, the military, or work.
College is the choice encouraged most often by high-school guidance counselors, and for good reason. By 2020, two out of every three jobs will require some sort of higher education, according to the Center on Education and the Workforce, at Georgetown University.
But not every high-school graduate is ready for college at 18. By promoting college as the preferred pathway right after high school, we leave those students who are not ready, or who have no idea why they enrolled, at risk of dropping out with no more idea of what to do next than when they arrived on campus—and very likely saddled with debt as well.
The higher-education establishment in the United States has been obsessed with raising graduation rates ever since the Obama administration and two major foundations, Gates and Lumina, vowed to see that the country soon has the world’s highest share of adults with college credentials.
Getting students who start college to eventually finish is a noble goal. But we focus too much time, effort, and money on pushing students through a narrow, simplistic view of higher education—one that starts three months after high-school graduation and ends two or four years later with a degree.
That vision doesn’t reflect either the reality of today’s students or the higher-level skills our economy needs in its workers to compete on the global stage. (Read more. May require paid subscription.)