Higher ed panics as more men opt out of college for the real world
It’s no longer just a trend, but a reality. The gender gap on college campuses continues to widen, nationally and in Minnesota. This threatens the viability of the higher education…
The British government announced last week that it would spend 170 million pounds (the equivalent of about $213 million) developing a series of “Institutes of Technology” intended as “credible alternative[s]” to well-worn routes many young people take to more academically oriented universities. As reported by Times Higher Education, the new Institutes are part of Prime Minister Theresa May’s industrial policy, in which “technical education will get a radical shake-up so as to ‘level the playing field’ for those who do not go to university.”
The Prime Minister was “expected” to say that the strategy would be a “critical part of the plan for Britain” once the country departs the European Union. More specifically, May reportedly saw it as “unwise to force less academic pupils into the straitjacket of university, leaving them drowning in debt for the sake of a poor degree” – particularly, she added, when we have a chronic shortage of British plumbers and engineers.”
For a range of reasons, Center of the American Experiment won’t be recommending that either Minnesota or the United States more generally create the kinds of institutions the Brits seem poised to pursue. One of those reasons, a quite large one, is that this state and nation already have great numbers of such places, variously called community colleges, technical colleges and the like – as in Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls, Northwest Technical College in Bemidji, Riverland Community College in Austin, Alexandria Technical and Community College in Alex, and Minneapolis Community and Technical College down the block among many other invaluable such schools around the state and nation. This is not to say, though, that my colleagues and I don’t resonate when we hear calls for more plumbers, regardless of the side of the Atlantic from which they flood forth. We very much do.
As you may know, American Experiment is in the early stages of a multi-year project aimed at helping more young people win good-paying jobs and solid middle-class careers without four-year degrees. We start from the belief that American colleges and universities are the envy of the world, and nothing we ever will say or write will seek to dissuade anyone from attending one if that is their dream and plan.
But we also know many young men and women really don’t want to spend a minimum of four years in college, yet nevertheless enroll, believing that doing so is their only avenue to occupational success – when it definitely is not. Such quests regularly end sadly, with students not only dropping out, but routinely in sizable debt, too.
How to overcome the unhealthy cultural bias that just about every young American ought to go to college and come out around four years later with a four-year degree? What educational alternatives are far better routes for countless young men and women? And far from incidentally, what kinds of educational options – starting with apprenticeships and certificate programs in community colleges – increase the chances that employers can find enough employees with first-tier technical skills so their businesses can thrive and remain in Minnesota?
In doing research for this still-to-be officially-launched project, I’ve met since late September with about 40 leaders in education, business, government and other fields seeking their advice. American Experiment President John Hinderaker and Senior Fellow Kathy Kersten have met with dozens of men and women as well. Without exaggerating in the least, it’s accurate to say I have never been involved in any project in which enthusiasm is as across-the-board high as this one. Here are snippets of notes I’ve taken over the last four-plus months.
To which I immediately agreed.
Mitch Pearlstein is Founder of Center of the American Experiment. He routinely calls on the services of well-paid plumbers.