For many of our students and families, the term “college” brings to mind highly selective four-year institutions that may feel out of reach financially, academically, or socially. So, when speaking with students and their families about college, it’s important to be clear that the term college is inclusive of all education beyond high school: career and technical training, associate degrees, and four-year degrees, and to remind them that there is a postsecondary pathway for them.
We know that education beyond high school remains the surest way for our students to access “good jobs” – those jobs that provide living wages – with 80% of jobs in today’s market going to workers who have a certificate, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree. Furthermore, our students who earn credentialing beyond high school are more likely to retain their jobs in an economic crisis and have access to new jobs in an economic recovery than their peers with a high school diploma or less.
But, in addition to communicating with students and families the higher lifetime earnings and job security college affords, it is important to also address the other benefits it brings:
- Higher community engagement through volunteerism, charitable donations, and voting,
- Living a healthy lifestyle through exercise, preventative medical care, and greater access to employer health insurance, and
- Being significantly more likely to report being happy.
With the financial and quality of life benefits that accompany education beyond high school, we believe the message to students is “college is for everyone.” The pathways and timelines to obtain postsecondary credentials may look different for each student; after all, there are a wide range of diverse college opportunities. It is our job as educators to help students understand those opportunities and find the right educational pathway for their career and personal goals.