Alternative options for higher education unfairly stigmatized
The Vanguard Vision
October 19, 2009 —
Higher education: to some it’s a luxury, to others it’s viewed as destiny. In America we’re told it’s a necessity. And it is. Its pursuit places us back in the classroom after high school. We were told at some point in our lives that degrees equaled significant increases in yearly earnings over time. That was not a lie. We were told that in America, opportunities exist for everyone to attend college. Also not a lie. There are other things that probably weren’t communicated to us as directly, as stigmas seldom are. By now, though, most are aware of the way society ranks the different forms higher education.
There isn’t a single cookie cutter used for any batch of higher education dough. College is a rather broad term, encompassing community colleges, state colleges, state universities, private universities and so on. Two years, four years, five to seven years — time also plays into our evaluation of higher education. And then there are trade schools, perhaps the most stigmatized of all: those places one supposedly goes upon realizing that sweater vests and British literature aren’t up one’s alley. Bear in mind that these are stereotypes — ones worth examining to understand our perceptions of education after high school.
The world needs automotive technicians, electricians and plumbers among other trades just as it needs doctors, teachers and engineers — this we know is no secret. But the social stigma surrounding trade schools can be detrimental to individuals who could achieve high levels of success in careers that require focused vocational schooling rather than the four-year route.
According to the 2008–09 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the job outlook for automotive service technicians and mechanics is expected to grow “faster than average” in the next decade, showing a 14 percent employment increase compared to 10 percent for all occupations. The outlook for educators will “vary from good to excellent.”
The point here certainly isn’t to present high school senior Suzy Student, who began practicing teaching with her stuffed animals at age 5, with these statistics and tell her she’d better learn what a carburetor is because that’s where more jobs are likely to be. The point is that alternative choices for higher education need to be made more socially acceptable for those high school graduates who want to pursue a trade but end up blowing a lot of money in a two-year stint at a four-year college that wasn’t meant to be because the grad chased a vision of over-glorified college life rather than anticipating the reality of college coursework.
Most have heard the expression “College isn’t for everyone.” This line can carry a negative connotation — one we can interpret to mean “If you’re not good enough, if you’re not smart enough, you don’t belong here.”
It isn’t the Vanguard’s place to tell any readers they don’t belong at SVSU. Everyone made a respectable choice to be here. This is a school of opportunity, but not a school of promises. Granted admission doesn’t come with a pinky swear for a degree. We know that college is hard work and that today, especially, even a degree doesn’t guarantee a dream job.
Realistically, national statistics indicate that roughly a third of Michigan college freshman won’t return for a second year. We can’t ignore that this happens. Some will come back later for a second try, others will go another route. The Vanguard believes that every Cardinal has earned a shot at a four-year degree, but that alternative forms of higher education are still rewarding options.