Many US students now choose careers over college because of a convergence of economic circumstances.
An increasing number of students are deciding against attending college in favor of entering the workforce. That is, immediately after high school graduation. Historically, college has been a stepping stone to higher-paying professions and more financial stability.
These causes include higher earnings and a better job market. Companies created almost 400,000 positions in May. According to the Department of Labor, wages are up more than 5% overall.
In the meantime, rising tuition and growing interest rates (which make it more costly to take out student loans) are driving up the cost of attending college. This is despite the fact that many educational institutions have not been able to return to their pre-Covid status.
According to Jeffrey Strohl, research professor and director of research at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “After a semester or two of virtual learning, people were feeling pretty let down, especially at higher-cost institutions.” Strohl’s position at Georgetown University combines the roles of both educator and researcher.
These kinds of tendencies are encouraging a growing number of young people to forego their college education.
According to the results of a study, more than one in five first-year undergraduate students who attended classes in 2018 indicated that they would not attend classes the following year. 17% of all students have said that they do not intend to return the following year. 19% have indicated that they are doubtful.
According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, the total number of students enrolled in colleges and universities fell. That is by 3.1% from 2020 to 2021 and has decreased by 6.6% since 2019. In 46 of the 50 states, there was a decline in the number of students attending college.
Many US students now choose careers over college
Jeremy Wheaton, president and CEO of ECMC Group, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to assist students in achieving their goals says, “this began prior to the pandemic.” “However, the pandemic, like a lot of other things, really sped up the process of moving away from the typical four-year course.”
According to a poll conducted by Intelligent.com, one of the primary motivations for dropping out of school was to take advantage of the present state of the labor market.
However, according to economists and others who specialize in careers, even though entering the workforce full-time may be a financial gain for students right now, they may be giving up considerable earnings over the course of their professional lives if they do so.
Per Social Security Administration data, male employees with a bachelor’s degree earn nearly $900,000 more over the course of their careers than their contemporaries who did not complete high school.The gender pay difference amounts to $630,000 over a woman’s lifetime.
Wheaton points out that such statistics compare all college graduates to all of those who don’t have a degree, overlooking the nuances of the advantages that some skilled employees, such as plumbers or nurses, can have in the labor market.
However, despite the fact that there is a scarcity of jobs at the moment, there are indications that the economy may be heading in the direction of a recession. This may imply that many of the young workers who are currently snagging high-paying jobs may find themselves on the receiving end of layoffs in the not too distant future.
Workers without a college degree have historically been among the first to lose their jobs and have had a more difficult time finding new employment than their counterparts who do have a degree.
Challenges in financing a college degree
According to Strohl, the workers with the lowest levels of education are the “shock absorbers” in our economy. They are the first to lose their jobs if there is a drop in the level of economic activity.
Experts, on the other hand, understand the difficulties that many students face when it comes to financing their education. This is especially true for students from low-income families or those who are the first in their families to attend college.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the annual net price of college attendance (the cost of attending college after deducting scholarships, grants and other forms of financial aid) was $14,200 at public institutions and more than $28,000 at private colleges.
Even while this is a considerable discount compared to the total cost of attending school, it is still a major burden for young adults to carry on their own, and it is one that can be challenging to justify when weighed against the possibility of beginning gainful employment right away.
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According to research conducted in 2021 by ECMC Group on high school students, six in ten are concerned about how they will pay for college, and roughly thirty percent of respondents claimed that the financial burden of the pandemic makes it less likely that they will attend a four-year college.
According to Wheaton, obtaining training for specialized occupations or trades in areas where there is a low supply of labor may provide a significant avenue toward economic stability for students in these situations.
“There are shortages in vocations such as nursing, truck-driving, manufacturing, and even pilots,” he continues. “There are also shortages in the overall labor force.” “The epidemic made the shortages worse, but we also need to get rid of or at least minimize the stigma that getting a four-year degree is the only way to accomplish the American Dream.”
If you start college but don’t finish it, you could be taking a step in the wrong direction from an economic standpoint.
A bachelor’s degree requires four years of study, which might not be the ideal path for everyone. This is due to the fact that college dropouts may lose out on a year or more of employment and find themselves loaded with debt since they are unable to benefit from the income increase that comes with having a diploma.
This places them even further behind their contemporaries. As a result of attending college, “they receive all of the debt and none of the advantages,” according to Strohl.
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The importance of receiving early assistance from professionals
According to the opinions of several experts, a more effective strategy would be for young people to give careful consideration and deliberate intention to their goals for beyond high school as well as the economic impact those decisions would have over the course of their lifetimes.
For some kids, this can entail looking for a school that is either less expensive or one that offers greater financial help to students from families with lower incomes.
For some, this may mean exploring alternative educational opportunities, such as earning a certification or degree that is more focused on practical experience and takes less time to complete but enables them to begin earning money sooner while also increasing their marketability to potential employers.
According to Strohl, those who have recently graduated from high school absolutely require further expert career counseling to assist them in better understanding the risk that they are taking. “There are many good avenues for individuals without a B.A. degree, but they are a little tougher to locate.”
Students would benefit greatly from seeking advice from career counselors or attending workshops offered at their schools or colleges. This is because doing so would provide them with a more comprehensive understanding of the various routes to success that are currently available.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that alternative solutions do exist.
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