A few things to consider:
- Nationally, 89% of non-low-income students graduate from high school on time compared to 74.6% of low-income students – a 14.4% point gap.
- The U.S. is the only country where educational attainment levels among those just entering the labor market (25-34 year-olds) do not exceed those about to leave the labor market (55-64 year-olds).
- Among 25-34 year-olds, the U.S. ranks 15th among 34 OECD countries in secondary education attainment.
- Internationally, the US is ranked 17th in reading, 20th in science, and 27th in math.
- Since 1972, the cost of a university education has risen at more than 3x the overall rate of inflation.
- Between 2001 and 2012, funding by states and localities for higher education declined by 33%, when adjusted for inflation.
- Among general populations worldwide, 53% say the pace of change in business and industry is too fast. They worry about losing their jobs—60% because they lack needed training or skills, meaning their skills haven’t kept up with fast-changing job requirements, 54% because of automation, which means the same thing.
- The 2012 annual full-time earnings gap between college graduates and high school graduates was $35,000 for men and $23,000 for women.
- A two-earner household with both husband and wife having college degrees have an annual earning that is $58,000 higher than a two-earner household consisting of two high school graduates.
- College completion for households in the top quarter of the income distribution rose from 40% to 77% between 1970 and 2013, whereas for those in the bottom quarter, it increased only from 6% to 9%.
I state these statistics not to attribute blame, or merely for shock value, but because I feel like they aren’t stated enough.
The 2016 presidential election was deftly void of detailed, intellectual discussion regarding the state of education in our country. Yet, I don’t blame the politicians – they merely speak to the things voters appear to be concerned the most about – terrorism, immigration, and “bringing jobs back” to the states.
While there is merit for individuals to be concerned about these things, these concerns, specifically, as it relates to immigration and jobs, are concerns that are by-products of a greater underlying shortcoming – America’s scarcity of education capitalization, or the percentage of people in any group who are able to reach or capitalize on their educational potential.
Education is so important because its effects scale quickly:
College educated individuals typically marry each other, earn two incomes (enhanced by the degree) and have children after marriage, rather than out of wedlock. Their kids start off with a significant advantage in life. These kids are read to, exposed to museums, music lessons, and the world outside of the United States, further enriching their perspective. These families tend to live in suburbs where local schools provide free laptops, robust course selection, and access to some of the top colleges in the world…
I think you get the point.
Why are we not doing more to solve this problem?
Why isn’t this being reported on CNN 24/7?
Why isn’t the proposed solution for making America great again education?
Because the arc of education is long.
It takes resources.
It takes time.
It’s easier to bully US companies into not moving jobs overseas – providing a quick and ultimately fleeting bump in employment.
It’s hard to come clean and stomach the fact that the labor pool in the US doesn’t have the skills to perform higher value-add jobs.
I don’t claim to have the answers, nor that solutions to the educational challenges we face are easy.
Yet, I am proclaiming that the challenges are worth talking about. They are problems worth solving.
If we really want to address inequality and social mobility in this country, we must start with education.
It’s tempting to tinker around the edges with things that make headlines and transitionary “quick fixes”.
Yet, there are three things that are true of any problem worth solving:
- its hard
- it takes time, and most importantly,
- it takes awareness