What the stigma of blue-collar jobs is doing to our students
Posted on November 23rd, 2015

When Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) targeted philosophy majors in the Republican debate last week — arguing that welders earned more — he drew fire from a number of fact checkers, who noted, correctly, that the average philosophy major does earn more than the average welder.

But the deeper issue of frequent mismatch between career hopes and educational pathways has long concerned higher-education reform experts.

Many have long argued that the emphasis on four-year college degrees has obscured high-value career paths that are more technical and hands on — but usually do not come with the prestige of a bachelor’s degree.

"Rubio is right about what he really means to be saying," said Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. "There are a whole series of certifications that take a year or less that earn more than the average bachelor's degree."
Carnevale says that 20 percent of technical certificate holders make more than the average B.A., while 30 percent of associate’s degrees earn more than the average four-year graduate. And that, he says, holds true not just after graduation, but 20 years after as well.
The most vulnerable to this educational paradox, Carnevale says, are four-year degrees in fields like humanities, history, education and psychology. Students weighing a four-year degree vs. a certificate or associate's degree need to factor earnings data.
The problem runs in two directions, said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program in Washington, D.C.. He worries that students from poorer families are incorrectly steered toward tech careers, while wealthier kids get the same push toward four-year degrees.

Some kids from wealthier communities who could have very fulfilling careers aligned to their interests won't pursue those options because their parents fear the stigma of blue-collar jobs, Wyner says. "They view those jobs as dirty jobs, not worthy of a career for their kids."
The stigma attached to technical careers remains. There is a built-in bias against applied careers, Wyner says, in part because most of those doing the analysis and talking are themselves white collar and see a four-year degree as the only real educational choice.
And so, many reformers argue, a circle of ignorance continues to drive students into suboptimal educational and career paths. But possible solutions are on the table, Carnevale notes, and there could be dramatic changes in the offing.

Better information
One possible answer is transparency. “The Know Before You Go Act,” a bill co-sponsored by Rubio with two Democrats, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, would empower the Department of Education to share detailed data on the earnings of graduates from specific programs at specific schools.

The data, known as "student unit records," already available through Social Security and unemployment insurance records, combined with college graduation records, is currently illegal to collect — partly out of fears that personal information might leak and be misused. But critics also believe powerful higher education lobbies fear that they will be revealed in the emperor’s new clothes if the data comes out.

That critique stings enough that National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, on its website statement, defends it motives. "Whatever the speculation about our motives may be," the statement reads, "the truth is that our opposition is — and consistently has been — grounded in the concern about the adverse impact such a system would have on student privacy. We do not believe that the price for enrolling in college should be permanent entry into a massive data registry."

Source: ​http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865641859/Why-bluecollar-jobs-prevent-some-students-from-seeking-highvalue-career-paths-in-college.html


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