Is a 4-year college degree still the answer?

In a recent article from the Washington Post, more and more students are finding alternative means of getting an education preferable to going to college. It’s been long since the post-World War II era, where college enrollment spiked from 2.3 million to 12.1 million students. Now, fewer than 60% of college freshman now graduate within six-years. In a recent survey by Public Agenda, 50% of college dropouts cited working as a major factor in their decision, which makes sense seeing that the debt of college dropouts has now topped $1 trillion according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And this amount could increase as more and more students find occupational advantages to dropping out and not taking on the massive amounts of debt needed to complete a four-year degree.

The U.S. Department of Education recently found that college dropout rates have increased by 38% in the last decade, and that dropout rates amongst for-profit, four-year institutions have spiked from 34% to 54% since 2001. So how can a nation with increased dropout rates still compete in today’s global economy? Professor Robert Lerman of American University proposes instituting apprenticeship programs for college students that would pay them to participate in classroom trainings that would give them the skills needed to matriculate into occupation they want to take on. In 2008, 0.3% of the total U.S. workforce participated in apprenticeship programs registered with the Department of Labor. But Berman argues that in the EU, countries like Germany, Austria and Switzerland, with much greater reading, writing and math literacy than in the United States enroll nearly 50-70% of their young people in apprenticeship programs.

Although, the Obama Administration has made increasing graduate rates a focal point of his 2012 campaign, today’s “college-crazed” culture, as Robert Samuelson puts it, “cheapens the value of a college degree and spawns the delusion that only the degree — not the skills and knowledge behind it — matters.”


Posted By: Jonathan Sherman

Sources: The Washington Post, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Labor, CNN Online

Photo credit: Harvard University courtesy of flickr user Omer Kabir


One Response to Is a 4-year college degree still the answer?

  1. Pingback: Is College Too Easy? « America and the Global Economy

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