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Education Letter to the Editor

If All Were College-Ready, Would They Need to Go?

February 06, 2007 2 min read

To the Editor:

Elliot Washor and Charles Mojkowski’s Commentary “The College Juggernaut” (Jan. 17, 2007) makes some very good points. But my take on the push to get more students into and graduated from college is much broader than the traditional four-year program.

College can be any postsecondary program offering a degree beyond a high school diploma. Completion of college should not be defined as a set number of years, but by the attainment of a new set of usable skills. All over the country, the workforce is in need of skilled members. These are workers that possess specific higher-level skills in technology, health care, mechatronics (electromechanical systems), biometrics, forensics, and so on. For the most part, these are not four-year-college skills, but are skills nonetheless provided by some type of college education.

The main points of Messrs. Washor and Mojkowski’s essay should have been that all students must finish high school, that all students must be prepared to go on to some type of college program, and that all students must be ready to never quit learning.

Bob Arp


Lakeview High School

Columbus, Neb.

To the Editor:

While it would be good if more students graduated from high school with the ability and desire to do college-level work, we shouldn’t expect that to do anything to help society “close its social gaps,” in the words of Elliot Washor and Charles Mojkowski. This is because substantial numbers of college graduates already end up working in what are generally regarded as “high school jobs.” Among others, Frederic L. Pryor and David L. Schaffer have made that point, in their 1999 book Who’s Not Working and Why. The labor market is not going to miraculously change just because more people have college credentials. Most jobs now and in the future will require no advanced academic preparation, only trainability.

It’s true that more jobs seemingly “require” a college degree now than in the past, but rarely is this related to concrete skills and knowledge that only college graduates could possess. Rather, when an employer says that a bachelor’s degree is required for applicants, it usually only means that the employer wants to screen out from consideration those who have just a high school diploma, because they are presumed to be less motivated and trainable. The irony is that if we really could make sure that most high school graduates were ready for college, they wouldn’t need to go.

George C. Leef

Vice President for Research

John William Pope Center for

Higher Education Policy

Raleigh, N.C.

A version of this article appeared in the February 07, 2007 edition of Education Week as If All Were College-Ready, Would They Need to Go?