We’ve all heard about the push for all students to attend college. In fact, colleges are now offering specific days in the spring for students to apply to attend for free! High schools are requiring all students to apply to at least one college or university before they can graduate, apply for financial aid, and all students are required to take the SAT college entrance exam their junior year of high school. How many of you attended college? For those who did not, did you have successful lives? Were you able to provide for your families? I would risk guessing for most of you, yes…
I am educated woman. I am also a first-generation college student, and two of my children will have bachelor degrees by the end of 2021. However, that does not make me any more successful than my brother, who has no college education. Without a degree behind his name, he has successfully owned and operated his own business for over 15 years! He employs 3-5 people at all times, and even keeps them working during his slowest seasons. He has zero student loan debt, and I would classify him as a successful person…with only a high school education.
In 2016, Idaho legislated that every public-school serving students in grades 8-12 would establish a college and career advising program (Idaho State Dept. of Education). Despite efforts by districts, schools, administrators and teachers, Idaho’s college go-on rate has remained stagnant at 45% in 2016 and 2017 (IdahoEdNews.org). College and Career readiness programs were supposed to be the answer for commissioning our students into a life of success after high school. Based on these statistics, I would venture to say that has not happened.
Why are we pushing a post-secondary education for all students when the results will likely be a remarkable increase in student loan debt and a flood of job seekers in a market that cannot support a significant increase in college educated workers? Do we not understand the need for welders, construction workers, cooks, waitresses, and the like? What college-educated citizen wants to spend an average of $23,000 on a degree only to end up earning slightly above minimum wage as a secretary because of the lack of jobs in their specialized field?
We, as Idahoans, need to advocate for a few things. First, OR should replace AND in the phrase College and Career Readiness. Second, Idaho should fully fund programs in all public elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the state that, starting in kindergarten, introduce students to many options for their future careers. These options should include careers such as auto body, welding, and cooking along with teaching, engineering, pharmacy, and others. Third, students should be required to take an interest inventory at least once throughout the school year. The results should drive their learning in a way that allows them to explore the things they are interested in and learn of the possibilities of their future. Finally, districts should be provided with funding to hire at least one teacher in every school to oversee these programs and ensure academic teachers are not being tasked with more responsibilities.
Come on Idaho … are we really going to measure success on the go-on rate, or are we going to advocate for our students and allow them to demonstrate success by being viable, active citizens in our beautiful state? If we want to see change, we need to advocate for it. Contact your senators and representatives and let’s fight for our children and their futures.