Options other than college

Published 2:45 pm Friday, August 18, 2017

During the most recent meeting of the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation, its executive director, Dr. Bill Dingus, spoke of the need to prepare our children with the appropriate education to answer the growing demand for the next generation of industrial jobs coming to our communities.

Dingus said while families, especially those with parents who never went to a four-year university, often push higher education and four-year degrees as a way to succeed, this isn’t always the best way to make a good living. Many of the new manufacturing and industrial jobs coming to the area will pay fairly high wages. Significantly higher, in many cases, than entry-level jobs that may require baccalaureate degrees.

A new focus on technical education, including STEM education, as well as two-year certifications and programs, may actually prove more beneficial than the typical college education for young people who want to stay in the area and work in the field, according to Dingus.

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He may be on to something. The cost of higher education alone has put it out of reach of many, or saddled young people with massive debt before they’ve even started to earn.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the average cost of a four-year degree from a public institution has raised 33 percent over the last 10 years, from just over $11,000 in 2005 to over $18,000 in 2015. If you are going to a private institution, that cost is even higher.

Education is valuable in its own right. But the debt that it saddles students with may outweigh the benefits of higher education for some students.

College might not be the best fit for everyone. Instead of pushing our kids in that direction as the best way to succeed, perhaps we should listen to folks like Dingus, who work with employers and understand what they are looking for in a workforce.

For some of our kids, technical educations and certifications may lead to the bright future every parent really wants for their child.