When only 37 percent of students enrolled in college graduate in eight years, there’s something terribly wrong (“Looking for an Alternative to College? U.S. Studies German Apprenticeships,” The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 29). The usual explanation is that high schools are not doing their job. But there is another side of the story that warrants a closer look.
The truth is that not everyone is college material. They lack either the aptitude or the interest, or both. Yet we persist in counseling them to apply to a four-year college or university, when they would be far better served taking a vocational course of study in high school, combined with an apprenticeship. I submit that the main reason is our aversion to differentiation in education at any age. Our competitors abroad have so such problem separating students into tracks based on their ability.
Even though student debt is at an all-time high, students persist in believing that without a four-year college degree they can’t make a decent living. If they had been better counseled, they would quickly see that is not the case. For example, welders now command salaries of $100,000. And they are not burdened with student debt. I see many of my former students, who never went to college but took a vocational education, doing what they like and leading a gratifying life. It’s time to get real about the obsession with college for all.
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