When President Donald Trump slammed his administration’s new education budget last year, he was absolutely right. For years, we’ve been choosing higher education based on where we can get a good job rather than where we will get the education we need for a career.
That system has been under assault, as our students and our students’ parents have tried to find any bit of information and reassurance that a four-year degree was indeed worth the cost.
In order to provide further relief to those students and their families, I created the All of Us America program, which now receives funding from the federal government. Our new partnership with Edison Schools will bring All of Us to more than 50 public schools and will aim to engage and entice Americans with college credit toward their dreams of landing a job.
For years, college has been portrayed as a ticket to higher earnings and greater financial security. In reality, a college degree has been placed on the pedestal, with other criteria being trashed, and such a prestigious pathway to a career has been all but dismissed.
College is often seen as more of a cost than a value. For many, college is a solid investment that will lead to well-paying jobs and a future that is bright and bright. However, when government hands out massive loans based on unattainable expectations, young people are forced to find financial relief elsewhere.
My program is focused on encouraging all students to pursue their higher education and encourages them to take a look at the extent of colleges’ employability—not only to earn a degree, but also to make sure they are truly getting their money’s worth.
Some of the questions I often get from students in my All of Us America program are as follows: “Can the money be better spent at a community college?” or “Will I get more out of it by taking classes online and working full-time?” But the one thing we want students to take away from our work is their passion for a career they are passionate about—not whether they can make more money at a community college. The answer is yes.
A recent study showed a correlation between the amount of a student’s debt and income level five years later, indicating that early intervention has real consequences for students’ future outcomes. For example, a student’s level of debt can affect whether they take a job that pays less than a degree they plan to attend college for or if they take a degree that they were hoping to attend college for, but would get paid less for.
A higher education cost should be highly correlated to the amount of financial aid available. If students have a high income based on their plans after graduation, they are less likely to leave their debt behind and look for an entirely different path that doesn’t lead to wealth.
Edison Schools and All of Us America are designed to make sure students have access to opportunities they didn’t have before, as well as encourage them to take a look at their skills and potential in the community, rather than the teacher, professor, or college that taught them.
All of Us America is changing the conversation with college. It challenges the idea that students should follow a career or get a job before they get a degree. It highlights the importance of having a passion for a career in order to reap the benefits of higher education—not just to land the job. It turns that student’s money aside, it emphasizes what that diploma means to them and what they want from it, rather than what that diploma represents to others.
Instead of being a status symbol that is only deserving of young people who can afford the financial burden, a degree should be a signal of whether that person is a true leader, one who cares about others and wants to do more with their life than just what they can “save” money for. America is founded on a universal common principles that bind us all together and that College should be for everyone, not just those who can afford it.
— Trish Taylor is the president of Evergreen College and co-founder of All of Us America. Follow her on Twitter at @trish6807