“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” – Malcolm X
Our divided nation is filled with many people who justifiably believe tomorrow will be worse than today. They vented their anger in the voting booth. They went all in for massive change. We will have to wait to see how that shakes out.
In the meantime, we can try to understand the roots of their rage. Few would disagree that low paying, dead-end service jobs are not or near the top of the list.
Laura Pappano of The New York Times may have hit a nerve in her excellent article, Colleges Discover the Rural Student. She talks about the challenges students from rural areas of our nation face regarding attending college.
“These students face specific challenges. They attend schools so small that some teachers double as guidance counselors and bus drivers. In western Texas, the sports teams of Alpine High School can travel five hours each way to face opponents. In one removed Kentucky town, Irvine, students gather in a McDonald’s parking lot for internet access, when it’s working. Rural schools also often have less access to Advanced Placement courses.”
It is no coincidence that Donald Trump’s insurgent presidential campaign received a tremendous amount of support from our nation’s small towns.
This problem is compounded by certain ingrained beliefs about college, regarding students from rural areas.
“The belief that college is for other people, not country folk, is hard to break,” said Sahar Mohammadzadeh, a high school junior from Kentucky. In many small schools the main goal is to graduate, not become the valedictorian or attend an Ivy League University.
Our nation’s universities need to focus on these students and approach them differently.
Ms. Pappano mentions “exploring more tailored help, including virtual college advisers with local knowledge, a rural-specific college application guide, outreach to counselors in rural districts and more online help.”
To help motivate these students, high schools in these regions should make this graph part of their standard curriculum.
Our research director, Michael Batnick created this powerful chart. The career earning differentials are staggering between those who are educated and the back row kids. There is almost a $750,000 earnings differential between high school graduates and those with bachelor’s degrees. This difference peaks out between a high school dropout and someone with a doctoral degree.
We are talking about almost a $2 million difference in career earnings.
Notice, we did not mention grades. Completing higher levels of education is much more important than graduating summa cum laude.
Vocational training and certification programs also need to be part of the mix. Attending a four-year university is not for everyone.
Training in a skill that can be directly applied to a career path is absolutely essential for these students. Low paying jobs at McDonald’s and Walmart do not a happy person make. We need to address this problem and soon.
Too many are afraid of the future and want to reclaim a past that will never return.
“Show me the money!’ is the pitch these students need to hear.
There are about 750, 000 reasons to start paying attention.
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