College Enrollment Spikes, But Will Jobs Be There for Graduates?

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Obama wants more Americans to graduate form college. But a new study questions how effective that education will ultimately be. (Photo: Larry Downing/Reuters)

How bad is the current job market for high school graduates? Finding gainful employment is about as daunting to today's high school graduates as being shipped off to Vietnam was for grads 40 years ago. 

Between 2007 and 2008, the latest data studied by the Pew Research Center, college enrollment had its biggest jump since the Vietnam War. Students of color were responsible for nearly three-quarters of the increase, which coincided with a 4 percent uptick in unemployment for Americans between the ages of 16 and 19 and an all-time record for diplomas among Americans age 18 to 24.

So more kids are going to college. That's good news. But according to another piece of data released this week, they might not be getting the right education.

The report, released by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, claims that by 2018 there will be 22 million U.S. jobs for new workers and only 19 million new worker to fill them. Just getting a college education isn't enough, the researchers said—what kind of education you're getting now matters immensely. And at the moment, concluded lead researcher Anthony P. Carnevale, it's far too hard to get an education that puts you on track for a specific, trade-based career. From Inside Higer Ed:

The key psychological change that's needed, he said, is to move away from "the old model, where you go to college and then go out and find a job" to one in which the college years are explicitly "preparing for an occupation." 

That change may indeed come, but consider the current situation facing high school grads. More kids than ever are getting their high school diplomas. But the economy is so bad, tons of them are turning to college because they can't get a job. When they get to college, though, the schools aren't adapting fast enough to the new economy, so students aren't learning the tangible skills they'll need to get a job after college. 

Seems like a tough road to navigate. 

Which may be why an option for young people that's been around since long before Vietnam is undergoing a resurgence at America's high schools. According to the New York Times, a new trend is popping up across the country: high schools are finding a newfound respect for graduates who don't go for a job or a college degree, but enlist in the military instead. 


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