Opinion | Congrats on your high school graduation. Now go to college!

Ashley Johnson is executive director of Detroit College Access Network

The election of new state leaders presents an opportunity for all of us to embrace the notion that “college is for everyone.” At Detroit College Access Network (DCAN), we define college as a valuable post-secondary education beyond high school including professional and technical certificates and credentials, apprenticeships, and four- and two-year degrees.

The old saying “college is not for everyone” fails to acknowledge the thousands of jobs that require some form of post-secondary education. We are asking elected officials to join us in telling young people and adults they are college material and there is a college path for them.

Michigan students and families deserve the opportunity to utilize resources to navigate all post-secondary options available to them. Professional and technical certificates, credentials and apprenticeships are great options for many students and their families because of affordability and accelerated programing. Students can gain access to these programs through Detroit At Work centers, the Detroit Training Center, other workforce development programs, and community colleges.

It can be the pathway to a job as a machining apprentice with an average annual salary of $32,000 to $38,000, or a job as a dental hygienist with an average salary of $56,000 to $71,000. Both jobs require at least two years of college or work-as-you-learn training and credentials.

Community colleges can provide a route to careers in health care, information technology and trades that require professional certificates, work-as-you-learn apprenticeships, or two-year associate degrees. If a student wants to go beyond a certificate, credential, or associate degree, community college can serve as a stepping stone to a four-year degree. With a four-year degree, education, qualifications, and earning potential are further increased. A worker with a bachelor’s degree can earn 84 percent more money than a peer with only a high school diploma during their lifetime.

We need an all-of-the-above college strategy to increase the percentage of adults in Michigan with a bachelor’s degree, associate degrees, certificates, or high-quality credentials. Current studies show that by 2020, 70 percent of jobs in Michigan will require some form of post-secondary education. However, only 44 percent of Michigan residents ages 25-64 have some form of a post-secondary education credential.

The recent Total Talent report from the Michigan Higher Education Attainment Roundtable (MIHEART) recommended state legislators significantly increase need-based state financial aid to make college and technical training schools more affordable and accessible. MIHEART recommended state policies that make it easier to transfer credit hours between educational institutions, increase dual-enrollment for high school students to take college classes, and more aggressive outreach to one-fifth of Michigan’s workers who have no education beyond a high school diploma to get them into and through post-secondary institutions.

All elected officials need to come together in January and agree that college is for everyone and create clear, affordable pathways to post-secondary degrees - for both 18-year-olds coming out of high school and 40-year-olds who desire to be retrained for the jobs of the future. By guiding more Michigan citizens into diverse pathways to earn a bachelor’s degree and other post-secondary credentials, we can foster upward economic mobility for their families and meet the growing workforce demands of employers.

DCAN is ready to reach out to our newly elected officials to provide support. We need to work together and recognize every pathway is important and worth celebrating. Michigan’s economic future depends on it.

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Thu, 01/03/2019 - 7:59am

If everyone went to college, we make school a K - 16 thing, as you suggest, wouldn't the comparative advantage of a bachelor's degree disappear? Would we then be hearing to be a success you must have a master's degree? There is scant evidence beyond the signalling benefit of a BA.

David Waymire
Thu, 01/03/2019 - 12:34pm

The Bureau of Labor Statistics data clearly shows the difference in earning between a college degree and a high school degree has never been wider. And that a four year degree is also far more valuable than a two.

John Q. Public
Thu, 01/03/2019 - 10:18pm

It's often an artificially created difference without reason-based causality, though. That doesn't mean the pay difference isn't real, only that the reasons for it aren't valid. My own workplace is rife with the despicable practice of not allowing its own highly capable workers to apply for any of the higher-paying positions in the corporation for the sole reason of their lacking a bachelor's degree. Those in charge are content to hire relative incompetents from the outside who went to college over its own bright employees who didn't.

While there are positions requiring college-level training, many more have a faux requirement of a college degree as a way to maintain an American caste system. College education is increasingly unaffordable, and the wealthy use it as a means to reserve higher-paying positions for those who can afford college (e.g., their own relatives and the relatives of their friends), thus relegating those who can't to a lifetime of depressed wages, often despite their superior ability gained in ways other than in the classrooms of ivy-clad buildings. White-collar employment among the college-educated is a big fraternity that excludes outsiders just because it can, and it uses education level as its specious justification.

Michigan Observer
Thu, 01/03/2019 - 10:23pm

Mr. Waymire completely misunderstands Matt's point. Matt was saying that if you substantially increase the supply of college graduates, you will reduce the market's valuation of degrees. That's absolutely true. Mr. Waymire is right about there being a substantial "difference in earning between a college degree and a high school degree". I recently read that 70% of high school graduates go to college, but that only 37% of that 70% get a degree in eight years. That works out to 25.9 percent of high school graduates that get a college degree. Economist Bryan Caplan recently made a good case that, contrary to Ms. Johnson, college is a tremendous waste of time and money (theirs and societies') for most students. He said that anyone who does poorly in high school, should not even consider college. He advised his own children that if they didn't do well in high school, they should not look to him for help financing college.

Ms. Johnson's article would have been much more credible if she had acknowledged that college is not a good option for most people, and spent more time promoting the value of apprenticeships and vocational training.

Sun, 01/06/2019 - 10:43am

Dave, I don't think you understand the idea of signalling as applied to the BA. It is the contention that the value stems primarily from what others (employers) think of the holder, rightly or wrongly, not that the BA necessarily confers any mental ability in itself.

Thomas Graham
Thu, 01/03/2019 - 2:18pm

Yes, it would disappear.
Yes, that is the next logical step.
The real problem here is that K-12 is not keeping up with what an average child needs to know by the time they graduate high school and we as a society keep lowering the bar.

Thu, 01/03/2019 - 10:57am

Apprenticeships have been in place for 200 years. In Michigan, the automotive industry sponsored the largest set of programs in the US. Community colleges provided skill sets for students to enter and qualify for apprenticeship positions. Unfortunately, there were many more qualified students than apprenticeship (employment) slots. As the apprentices moved through their programs, larger companies could easily steal advanced candidates from smaller companies with the enticement of greater salaries and benefit packages. The ability to grow apprenticeship opportunities rests with the employers, not with the interest of students. Focus on how to provide the array of interested employers, not just on the students.

Thomas E Graham
Thu, 01/03/2019 - 2:15pm

I have a working college funding strategy.
There is no benefit to the economy to fund psychology, sociology, women's or racial studies, archaeology, etc....
These are degree that you will not get a job at and you will incur $50K-$100K of debt. Why fund the things that will simply make all of us poorer?
If there are students who want to pursue these, there are plenty of private scholarships and they are free to take out loans.
Also!!! We already have school debt forgiveness when you get certain degrees (teacher, attorney, social worker, etc...) that can then be used to serve in a public position for ten years. Public defenders are forgiven an average of $140K of student debt.
Furthermore, maybe we should look to private corporations to develop apprentice programs.

Michele Strasz
Thu, 01/03/2019 - 4:37pm

Ditto from your colleagues at the Capital Area College Access Network

Thu, 01/03/2019 - 9:47pm

Although most people have the potential to earn extra credentials through education, internship, apprenticeship, and other avenues; not everyone does. We need to promote healthier living. Fetal alcoholism and crack babies have greatly reduced income potential through no fault of their own. We legalized pot for recreation, but that recreational use by them or second hand smoke for children that it can adversely alter the brain. Should we offer Saturday school for children with lower abilities, until they catch-up and/or get ahead? How about state paying for AP classes day and night for students in areas with high unemployment rates and allowing adults to attend if they follow the rules for the under 18 year old students and promise not to use it for a dating scene while on campus? May sure students don't become education snobs. Let them know the person who cuts you hair had to learn more subjects than the minimum, such as, chemistry. More math and chemistry for welding. If you exposed people to the subjects beyond the basics needed in the various trades and what subjects are starting to be required.

You can also find many studies that thin people make more money than fat people. Maybe we should bring more instruction in the exercise/gymnasiums areas or outside. We lost out on Amazon HQ partly because of quality of life. Could we incorporate more physical activity to the educational environment for students who aren't limited physically from doing so. Make sure the schools help students learn the best ways to avoid getting hooked optioids and other drugs that limit career options.

High-speed internet for video conference interview, video conference healthcare, research, education (i.e. Khan Academy, edx.org, mooc.org), exploring Youtube video on how to do something, networking with people, and other pursuits to grow; could also help. The Bridge did a story on how lack of quality internet service is limiting growth in the state. It is a problem in poor areas both rural and urban. High-speed internet also opens up the option of furthering education online, including online degrees.

Sun, 01/06/2019 - 10:25pm

There are three failings in this article, framing the issue as college vs other, adults talking to adults about ‘educational’ opportunities, and ignoring the role/responsibilities of the student in their learning.
Ms. Johnson’s and DSAN’s talk is about places that provide certified knowledge; they fail to realize individuals must continue to learn after they have received their educational certification, they fail to recognize that individuals must grow their knowledge and skills both in work and in personal life to simply remain current. No matter if a person has a college degree or some other form of certified knowledge and skills they will need to always be learning more as technology is always driving everything else to change, that continual learning will be done by the individual not those programs Ms. Johnson is talking about.
All programs Ms. Johnson/DSAN are promoting as opportunities only seem to be viable when they are free, this will fail because it ignores the individual, and the person that must commit their time, their efforts, and make the sacrifices to utilize the programs, the ones will do the learning. Learning is a personal process that each individual must want to do, must be willing to make the sacrifices, and must invest the time and effort to learn. Ms. Johnson and DSAN approach is build it and make the cost free and the students will come. This approach ignores that the individual must have a desire to continue learning, to continue gaining knowledge and skills, and without that personal desire to learn the programs will fail.
Ms. Johnson and DSAN are too narrow in their thinking, they need to open up to see learning from the student’s perspective and help to create their desire to learning rather than focus on how adults see education. For no matter how great the opportunity, without desire the opportunity will be missed.