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College or computer camp? Parents seek options

Laura McKenna lives in an affluent, high-achieving district where College stickers adorn BMWs and many students have Ivy League dreams.

Credit: Markus Spiske/Pexels

Yet parents packed an “Alternatives to College” presentation “desperately seeking information about alternatives for their kids who are nontraditional learners — or who have already tried to finish a four-year degree and just couldn’t do it,” she writes on The 74. (She’s also a long-time blogger on 11D.)

An administrator said his son is studying car repair at a technical high school. Another said her daughter quit a four-year university to attend a local community college.

In a whisper, they told us, “College isn’t for everyone.”

. . . In the supermarket, I ran into a mom who confessed that her son plans to get a degree in plumbing or electronics, and then defensively declared that he’ll make more money than anyone. . . . Families are worried about student debt and whether a B.A. will qualify their child for any kind of job.

People pay a premium for access to good schools in her community. Ninety-five percent of their kids enroll in college. But not everyone makes it past the first year.

David Kirp, author of the upcoming book The College Dropout Scandal, told me that fewer than half of all middle-class students graduate with a bachelor’s degree in eight years. Even students from the top of the income ladder struggle with completion; only 63 percent graduate in eight years.

. . . Many struggle with their newfound independence and the lure of the keg party. Others lack the so-called soft skills essential for managing college-level work. But there are some indications that now, students face more obstacles than in the past. Mental health issues on college campuses are exploding. The rise of low-cost, adjunct professors at many colleges means that there are fewer permanent staff to support students on campus.

Parents are becoming cynical about paying high college costs for few credits, writes McKenna.

Her younger son “has a form of high-functioning autism that means he’ll never be able to figure out the social life of a dorm and would struggle with the liberal arts requirements at a four-year college,” she writes. “However, his teachers tell me he’s gifted at computer programming and art technology, so I’ve been reading books and websites on the educational routes to jobs in those fields.”

According to books like A New U: Faster + Cheaper Alternatives to College, tech companies hire people for their skills, whether they got those skills at a community college, a computer boot camp or a four-year college. Programming is now being compared to blue-collar work; nobody needs to take freshman English to be a great coder.

“The rising costs of higher education, questions about job opportunities, the needs of those with learning differences” are fueling skepticism about college for all, writes McKenna. Parents in towns like hers are higher education’s “most faithful costumers.” If they’re looking for alternatives, colleges and universities should be very nervous.

This post first appeared on Joanne Jacobs — Thinking And Linking By Joanne Jacobs, please read the originial post: here

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College or computer camp? Parents seek options


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