Connecting the Educational Dots

By Stuart A. Singer, Author of The Algebra Miracle

Random and contradictory thoughts can sometimes coalesce into a cogent answer. Here are a few to consider:

The breathtaking rise in student debt has led many to believe that college degrees may not be worth the time and expense.

The stubbornly high unemployment rate juxtaposed with the reality that there are also millions of unfilled jobs leads many to wonder how the two numbers can concurrently exist.

Dropout rates decline but still translate into nearly one of every four American students.

According to the U.S. Department of Education only 18% of Community College students receive an Associate’s Degree within three years. One in four (25%) of Community College students enroll in a four-year college within five years. Overall less than 15% will ever attain a diploma.

And the drumbeat goes on and on and on…

Making sense out of nonsense

While no one has found the magic potion for ensuring academic success, it is apparent that there are plenty of persistent problems in education that simply refuse to go away. It would appear that much of the problem resides in the refusal of policy-makers to look at new perspectives such as lengthening both the school day and calendar. But there are other ways to address the aforementioned concerns.

Despite some arguments to the contrary based on the available data in 2014 possessing a college diploma is of significant value. According to Labor Department statistics in December, 2013, the rate of unemployment for high school dropouts was 9.8%, those with a high school diploma 7.1%, anyone with some college 6.1% and those with at least a four-year degree 3.3%. Of course in addition to the disproportionate joblessness tremendous (and parallel) differences in average earnings exist among these groups. With all of those figures in mind there is one other very troubling pair of numbers.

In the United States the high school dropout rate is consistently at about 25% and the percentage of Americans with a college degree has ranged from 25% to 33% over the past 20 years. When taken together that leaves nearly half of all U.S. citizens somewhere in between. Unfortunately too often that large group is ignored as the two major policy goals of education continue to be lowering the dropout ra

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