Is college the ONLY answer?
By Amber Peters
“On Track For College's goal is to dismantle myths that have created hardship for many college-goers while exposing users to ALL available options they may not have considered.”
For years we've been conditioned to believe that college was the be-all and end-all. At one point, attending college was thought of as THE gateway into the middle class. These days, statistics say otherwise and that comes as a surprise for some and a welcome change to others who have struggled with the rising cost.
According to the census data, high school graduation rates are high, but college degree attainment is not. Suppose we are comparing this data to income. In that case, it seems as though many New Yorkers (particularly Bronxites) have missed out on crucial post-secondary training that would have caused a dramatic increase in household income. Take a look at some of these statistics. Numbers don't lie.
Graduated with High School Diploma:
Bachelor's Degree Attainment:
Median household income:
Census.Gov, US Census Bureau, 4 January 2021
So my question is, what happens to the folks who finish high school but don't complete a degree? What is their next step? And how do they gain access to careers that can boost their income? This was the question and a problem I wanted to solve.
My challenge was to fix a system that has historically disenfranchised many young people by limiting access to critical resources, overlooking generational gaps, and leaving students to fend for themselves due to high student to counselor ratios. Doing it required a radically different approach, which prompted me to create the On Track for College app. On Track For College's goal is to dismantle myths that have created hardship for many college-goers while exposing users to ALL available options they may not have considered. We do this through our automated weekly notifications, dedicated information library, & curated web resources designed to walk our users through the complex process of college & career planning. To us, debt is not a rite of passage, and there are many ways to achieve financial security that doesn't require breaking the bank first. A college degree is not the only pathway to economic stability, and I'd like us to engage in a more thoughtful conversation to discuss other possibilities available to students.
The New Landscape
“College degrees are now optional for a lot of industries such as tech and health care… require a mere 6-12 months of hands-on training to gain access to salaries of $50,000-$100,000 per year. “
Outside of degrees, colleges offer a wealth of programs that can add to your bottom line such as licensures, certificate programs, and continuing education courses that can help you earn more money per year through high-paying careers, side hustles, or small businesses.
College degrees are now optional for a lot of industries such as tech and health care. In fact, many careers require a mere 6-12 months of hands-on training to gain access to salaries of $50,000-$100,000 per year.
Today we have even more options thanks to the Internet and open-source education. Programs like EDX and Coursera have been helping people acquire skills that can help them land their next job opportunity or promotion, and the best part is that it is super low cost or FREE.
Google can see where the future is heading and knows that college is not accessible to everyone. The tech industry is growing, and they are jumping ahead of the curve to make sure folks get an affordable but quality hands-on experience to make them eligible for the shift. With that in mind, they've come up with a genius program that will help people acquire a career in the tech industry and offer super low-cost programs in UX design (average salary $84,000) Data Analyst (average salary $66,000) Project Management average salary $61,000) and IT Support (average salary $56,000).
“The skilled trades… carpentry, electricians, plumbers, sheet metal workers, and more have median wages of at least $38,870, but incomes can go up to $84,000+.”
There are also high-paying career choices for those that are skilled with their hands. The skilled trades will always be in high demand and require only hands-on training, certifications, and in some cases, special licenses. According to the Department Of Labor Statistics, such jobs as carpentry, electricians, plumbers, sheet metal workers, and more have median wages of at least $38,870, but incomes can go up to $84,000+.
“A lot will change in the future job market, but the good news is that there are several ways to earn a decent wage without having to endure hardship.”
Across the nation, some organizations are catering to the shift in mindset. Programs such as The Knowledge House, N-power, Per Scholas, Year Up, and America On Tech expose young people to various new options and more importantly, help them cultivate skills necessary to compete in today's economy. Participation in these programs means access to more social capital, support for future career advancement, and a fast track to financial independence.
A lot will change in the future job market, but the good news is that there are several ways to earn a decent wage without having to endure hardship. The world is indeed our oyster; pop open that shell and see what's inside. As they say, "A man with options is a man with power. Having only one option is no option."
Amber Peters is an education technology entrepreneur whose goal is to help students develop effective post-secondary plans prior graduation by linking them to resources to execute their plan and and by designing programming that keeps their students motivated and engaged.
On Track with Mizz P. website