College education not the answer to America’s problems

Column by Austin Schmitt

What does summer mean to you? For most college students, it means working a job you couldn’t when school was in session, laying by the pool or vacationing on some beach. Unless of course you are reading this newspaper in some classroom thinking about doing all of the activities previously listed.

Yet all of those options have one thing in common: no school or at least not a full course load of schoolwork for those students choosing the summer school option. Recently, the Kentucky government finally pulled its head out of its rear end and passed a budget — a budget that took much debate and a special session that cost the government, and subsequently the taxpayer, even more money they do not have.

The largest point of interest to students at UK was the rising cost of tuition and college in general. With tuition rising at an average of 5 percent the previous few years, it comes as no surprise that tuition will once again rise by 6 percent for the 2010-11 school year.

Which leads to the question: When will college become unaffordable for the average high school student?

It may have already happened, but leave affordability behind and turn attention to accessibility.

One of Barack Obama’s goals in his 2008 campaign that led to his presidency was getting kids to college. On his campaign website, he posted these statements: “We need to put a college education within reach of every American. That’s the best investment we can make in our future.”

While that may be true, it does not tell the whole story. Being college educated is something that has lost its luster over the years. As more and more people obtain their degrees from one of the thousands of colleges in this country, more and more people enter the job market looking for those white-collar type jobs.

In an economy that hasn’t grown in a decade, a tough job market develops.

Obama goes on to say, “To be successful in the 21st century economy, America’s workforce must be more innovative and productive than our competitors.”

When talking about disturbing trends in college affordability and access, Obama says, “These trends not only threaten our competitiveness in the global marketplace, but also our ability to maintain and improve our economy at home.”

This is where Obama loses me. By handing out college degrees to anybody who can fork up the thousands of dollars necessary to attend college, we create a society of Americans who feel they are entitled to white-collar jobs and nothing less.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t there millions of dollars in stimulus money floating around requiring blue-collar type workers? Is there something wrong with going to vocational school and learning a trade?

To be competitive in the 21st century economy, it doesn’t require a college-educated workforce, it requires a workforce that finds its passion and talent and exploits it. If your passion is working with your hands, learn to be a service technician or a plumber. Think about all the times when your air conditioning goes out or your toilet overflows. Who is going to fix these things?

The stigma of certain blue-collar jobs drives this notion that everyone must attend college, but at what cost? We know the costs of tuition to a student, but do we know the debt we are giving to society by sending everybody to college?

The “future” of our country depends upon the workers who can produce the innovative ideas and implement the innovative technology into our everyday lives. If we have a bunch of Americans who sit around and think of groundbreaking ideas, we won’t have any Americans to go out and give it to the people of America. Our competitiveness in the global marketplace relies on the doers, not the thinkers.