Around this time of year, a number of our friends are celebrating their graduations from both high school and college. Yet for far too many, the transition from student life to the working world is filled with uncertainty. High unemployment and underemployment mean less opportunity for more members of our generation. And as rising income inequality and a recovering economy loom large, the availability of good jobs are crucial for young Americans to achieve economic security.
So why are more young people unemployed or underemployed? Though a slow recovery and a natural discrepancy between youth and overall employment are partially to blame, our education system is responsible as well. Student loan debt and tuition costs continue to rise, saddling young people with a heavy burden in a dismal job market. Meanwhile, many students take out loans and don’t complete their degree.
While it is clear that we need reforms to ease student debt, lower tuition costs, as well as improve degree completion rates, it is equally evident that young people need more options to help transition from school to the working world. A four-year college is a terrific option for many students, but it’s not the only way – vocational schools and two-year colleges can equip many students with the right skills for today’s job market, and it’s likely to cost a lot less.
There is no political panacea for solving the nation’s education and employment woes. Indeed, we must pursue a menu of policy options that not only addresses tuition costs, student loan payment plan reform, and degree completion, but also helps get more students employed in good paying jobs.
One option is to expand vocational programs in high schools so that schools graduate students who are both college and career ready. Federal funding for vocational training has decreased from $12 million in 2002 to just over $7 million in 2011, according to the Department of Education. That is why we need state and local governments to help expand vocational programs that serve as a career bedrock for young Americans. This is not to discourage four-year degrees – indeed, college remains vitally important to economic mobility, but we must also ensure there’s a range of options.
Read More At Fortune.