Enough with the “College and Career Ready”

Enough with the “College and Career Ready”

How about we just stop lying to ourselves. Just admit what we’re doing. We’re continuing to transform high school into something unbecoming.

Originally designed to churn out compliant cogs, high school is now just the pipeline to college. We’ve turned high school graduation into a binary choice. College and career ready is the goal. Think about it. Have you ever just heard the phrase “career ready”?

Meanwhile, we have a cohort of adults with massive student loan debt. Many of whom are underemployed. Holding jobs that don’t necessitate the college degree that prompted the loans that created the debt.

Rather than talking about the actual value of college, we simply talk about whether it should be free, like K-12. Or, whether those who borrowed money should have their debt forgiven. 

Perhaps we need to take a step back. And, take a cold hard look at the system we’re supporting with this pipeline. We need to ask if it’s really a system for education, or just a scam?

First, let’s look at the graduation rates. How many people are successful in getting an undergraduate, “four-year degree.” According to CNBC, only about 41% of college students earn a degree in 4 years. And, only 59% graduate in 6 years. 

Pretty abysmal statistics. What if only 41% of today’s vehicles were still running at the end of their standard warranty period? We’d be appalled. We’d stop spending our money, forcing manufacturers to build a better product.

But, when it comes to college, we don’t ask any questions. Well, we don’t ask any questions about graduation rates. Rather, we just keep asking about the hurdles we need to clear to get our kids admitted.

Second, let’s talk about credit hours. To graduate from college, students need a certain number of credit hours. That, it and of itself, seems reasonable. But, there’s an added requirement that those credit hours be in the right subject matters. And, some schools require certain courses. Their own courses.

So, let’s say you took a basic psychology course for college credit while you were in high school. Or, you’ve taken world history at a community college. Now you want those credits to transfer to your dream college. 

The credits will likely transfer, the class may not. So, you’ll get credit, but you’ll still need to take your dream college’s psychology or world history class. And, pay for it.

We wouldn’t continue to support our favorite retailers if they played these games. When we’re told that a store will do a “price match,” we expect any competitor’s price will be matched on that product. But, what if suddenly we’re told that only certain listed competitor’s prices were matched, and we weren’t allowed to see the list? How long until that nonsense goes viral on social media? 

Lastly, let’s talk about college sports. There’s a lot that could be said here. But, really, all we need to talk about, for me to make my point, is one simple rule. The rule that prohibits football or basketball talent from going straight from high school to work in a professional league.

Sure, there do seem to be avenues other than college that satisfy the rule. But, we all know how this works. We know which path allows the student to get the most money for his talents. And, that path is college. Even if for just one year.

Actors can go straight to Hollywood. Musicians can go straight to Nashville. If they’re talented enough, they can sign contracts. For millions of dollars. At age 18. Without ever stepping one foot on any college campus.

Why? Because college theatre and music programs don’t hold the same potential for income generation. Simple as that.

So, can we fairly conclude that higher education is a scam? I don’t know, for sure. But, it does seem fair to conclude that higher education has lost sight of its original mission.

If higher education were really about education, then the system would work hard to improve graduation rates. It would give full credit to all courses from other accredited institutions. And, it would welcome, with open arms, 18 year old NBA and NFL players. Let them pursue a degree in the off season. 

But, those things aren’t even up for a discussion. So, we would do well to stop perpetuating the college preference. We should stop pushing our kids toward a system that isn’t operating for their benefit. 

Rather, we should help our kids make decisions based on what’s best for them. Based on how they see their future. How they define success. Maybe they choose college. Maybe they don’t. Regardless, it’s their choice and they deserve our full support.

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