Too many of our kids enter college without much of an idea about vocational options. Our Economic Development Workforce Development Manager Jake Maxwell shares his thoughts on what could solve that problem, making more of our workforce job ready and with less student loan debt. Read on and as always, we’d love to hear your feedback.

It’s time to hack our kids’ schooling.

When I say “hacking”, I mean revolutionizing. There are so many funding sources, ideas, political campaigns aimed at answering the question “is our education system broken?”.

It doesn’t matter who you will vote for in the Presidential race and how education will be paid for. When answering the question “is the education system broken?”, we also need to understand what education is intended to prepare us for, who ends up being favored by it, and where are the inarguable deficiencies?

I came across an amazing concept I wanted to share that aims to solve all of the above stated problems, K-14 education!

K-12 educates our kids with all the same academics, but normalizes adding 2 years of higher education through community colleges (for free, if you choose to go there). Here are the problems this solves:

  1. Equity for opportunity is problem #1 in the current system. We all want this education insurance policy against low wages or job insecurity, but so many groups struggle to access it post high school graduation, and if they do access it, it’s through a predatory for-profit institution with more debt than the low wage job market will ever pay off, sometimes without a credential.
  2. Too many kids enter college without much of an idea about vocational options. This journey could begin before graduating high school and, through concurrent enrollment, could graduate some students by year 14 with a bachelors degree.
  3. Employers are willing to connect with students as early as grade school to spark an interest in careers. Knowing this, having a pathway that necessitates 2 years of college is an amazing way for kids who have an interest in a field to ensure they can begin to follow their vocational goals with real credentials for the workforce.
  4. The wage increase of a degree holding vs. non-degree job applicant is significant. In a period when we had a surplus of educated individuals outpacing technology through the 1970’s, the middle class was strong and it made the US an economic leader and innovator. With increased wage inequality and fast growing technology, education has fallen behind technological advances. Ensuring most people get a college credential in a specific field eliminates so much of the vast amounts of waste we see with today’s clumsy career exploration.

I suppose the question is, who will take this on? Ideally, this is a structural Federal reform. It could be paid for through funding sources that already exist, without exclaiming “free infinite college for everyone”. States, Counties, and Cities could also champion such an endeavor through a pilot with a single district, or by adopting it as an economic priority for their respective area.

What do you think of the idea? As always, we welcome your thoughts on the subject.