Arguments like Robert J. Samuelson’s about excessive demand for higher education [“The failure of college for all,” op-ed, May 28] divert attention from an incontrovertible fact: The United States, like all other advanced economies, must raise the skill level and ability of its population to compete in the knowledge economy.
Some key facts, courtesy of Labor Department data analyzed by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce:
●More than 60 percent of U.S. job openings will require some form of postsecondary education by 2018.
●The wage premium for college graduates is growing, not declining as you would expect if we were producing too many graduates and employers didn’t want them.
●The unemployment rate for four-year college graduates is 4.4 percent; for high school dropouts, it’s 13.2 percent.
The most important reason millions of Americans are seeking postsecondary education: jobs. Rather than questioning their judgment, we should be creating opportunities for them to learn and obtain the skills they know they need to be successful.
Jamie Merisotis, Indianapolis
The writer is president and chief executive of the Lumina Foundation, which promotes educational attainment beyond high school.
When I was a counselor at a Bethesda high school (1999-2001), I had two students who were eager to pursue programs at the county’s vocational school. Neither was given the chance because of poor grades and imperfect attendance records. This made no sense to me. They were unmotivated by their academic classes but fired up at the prospect of developing specific work-related skills.
Maybe if they had been given the chance to pursue their interests, they would have found the motivation to succeed. I mourn their lost opportunity and hope they are doing okay.
Sarah Livingston, Williamsburg
Would it not be better to follow the European model and extend our high schools by two years, thus giving students a chance to not only mature but also to take subjects usually encountered in the first years of college? These used to be called required courses but now are often simply remedial work or watered-down basics.
There also should be technical, skilled-labor and pre-apprenticeship programs for fields such as computer engineering, banking and finance as well as programs for house-building trades and auto repair.
I agree that college has become a dumping ground for middle-class aspirations, at an inflated price and with unemployment often at the end of the road. Let’s make universities once again places of truly professional and higher learning and put the basics back in the high schools.
Peter Dunner, Potomac