Higher Education Should Mean a Lot More Than Just College

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Education Agency documented education outcomes of students who started the eighth grade between 1997 and 2006. It showed that about 21 percent of Texas eighth graders will graduate from college. It's not the graduation rate that bothered me. It's that the study didn't show outcomes other than a certificate or degree from a Texas college or university. Is college the only worthwhile goal?As a college teacher, I say no. The study short shrifts other forms of education that can be just as good, or better, than a formal college education. For example, my hairdresser, Yadira, got her cosmetology license in a high school program, then went through an apprenticeship with Toni & Guy. She has her own business and pulls in more than $100,000 a year.My cousin Nate worked his way up in a chemical plant, earning one certification after another to become the senior process operator. You guessed it, over $100,000 a year.One of my students, Seth, is an underwater welder, educated by the U.S. Marines. Again, at least $100,000 a year.They love their jobs. They're good at them. They do good for society. And they all make way more money than I do with a master's degree.I wouldn't change what I do. I love it. And we all know degrees don't guarantee income, but education does generally lift all boats.This recognition could help us look at K-12 public education another way, create a new paradigm. What if we measured all education past 12th grade as higher education? The military, trade schools, internships and apprenticeships should all be considered.While the people who do these respected jobs could probably graduate from a university, they chose not to. Should we look down our noses at their accomplishments? Of course not.  Continue reading...

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