Repeating something often enough does not necessarily make it true. I have reference now to the mantra about the value of a bachelor’s degree (“More on the College Dropout Crisis,” The New York Times, May 26).
The present dropout rate at less elite colleges is more than 40 percent. As a result, these students leave with no degree but with debt. There is no single reason they drop out. But I submit that they were not college material in the first place. By that I mean they lacked the wherewithal to handle college-level work – or at least what used to be college-level work.
The remediation they receive is not enough. I liken their situation to athletics. No amount of coaching and practice will turn all students into varsity athletes. Yes, there will be some improvement in both cases. But it will not be sufficient to make a real difference in outcomes.
Rather than persist in the fiction that college is for everyone, a myth which will only exacerbate matters, I urge giving far greater respect and importance to vocational education starting in middle school. Germany serves as a model. It begins sorting out students early in their education. Those deemed able to handle academic work go to universities. Others make a solid living based on the training they received through apprenticeships.
But the U.S. views vocational education as inferior to academic education. As a result, we treat it as a stepchild. The monetary value of a college education depends largely on the major. Rather than tell young people that without a college degree they have a bleak future, let’s tell them the truth about vocational education, where welders earn $100,000 annually and have no student debt to pay off.
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