Thursday, August 22, 2013

COMMENTARY: College isn't for everyone - and that's just fine


KANSAS CITY, KAN. --- With this being "ACT Score Week" across the Kansas City metro area, we're being reminded of college and the academic performance needed to enter college.

According to this year's round of scores, just a quarter of students nationwide have the necessary skills to enter college.

While school districts across Kansas City and the country use this week to pound home the idea of college to their students, pardon me if I use ACT Week to send another message.

College is not for everyone - and there's nothing wrong with that.

It's my opinion that the best first step in improving education is not more funding. It's not a voucher system. It's not for newer schools, brand new curriculum or increased ACT/college preparation courses.

It's accepting two fundamental ideas.

1. College isn't for everyone.

2. There is absolutely no shame in going to a technical school, trade school, entering employment upon graduation, joining the military, ect.

Now, I'm not anti-college, nor am anti-intellectual. I went to college and several of my friends and relatives have, including my brother who started at the University of Missouri-Kansas City this week.

If going to college is your dream, don't let me or anyone else stop you.

However, college isn't the only dream out there, nor does it guarantee your dreams to come true.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that 25 percent of college graduates, as of winter 2012, have jobs that did not require a four-year college degree. This includes 115,000 janitors, 83,000 bartenders, and 323,000 restaurant servers. Although I may have went to a bar or two in college, I certainly don't remember taking any Bartending 101 courses.

Time for another sobering statistic. In a poll last spring, nearly 54 percent of all recent college graduates reported that they are either underemployed or do not have any job at all.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, there are a few million jobs that go unfilled because they cannot match the jobs with the appropriate skill levels of potential employees. Forbes Magazine reported in May that nearly 4 million jobs were unfilled this spring- and a big part of the reason was because many employees lacked the skills necessary to fill them.

Of course, filling those 4 million jobs would put a big dent into our unemployment numbers. Unfortunately, those jobs cannot be filled by candidates who earn degrees in art, history, English - and yes, journalism - just to name a few.

Instead of just being overly worried about the amount of kids who are college ready, school districts should also make them aware of other opportunities outside of college.

There are many jobs out there that pay good salaries and provide good benefits that do not happen to require a four-year college degree. For any high school students reading this, I'd urge you to look into those options as well.

Oh, and there's a bonus - mom, dad and you are not saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in debt either.

Nick Sloan is the Executive Publisher of The Kansas City Kansan. He can be reached at