THE ATLANTIC: Getting Credit for What You Know
Career College Central Summary:
College wasn’t right for Daniel Gamez when he first tried it as a recent high school graduate nearly two decades ago. The Texas economy was booming; he was in a hurry to start working. He couldn’t see how the things he was learning in college would help him get a job, and he dropped out before the end of his first semester.
It’s an all too common story. The overwhelming majority of American high school students say they expect to go to college, and about 70 percent of graduates end up in a college classroom within two years. But for many, higher education is the equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle—they never come out, at least not with diplomas. Many students give up in the first year: about a quarter of those attending four-year schools and half of those who start community college. And the attrition continues until graduation day. The end result: Just 32 percent of Americans 25 and older have four-year diplomas, and just 10 percent have associate’s degrees. Meanwhile, nearly a fourth of the country’s workforce—more than 36 million adults—fall into the category "some college, no degree."
Now in his early 40s, Gamez did all right for himself without a college degree. He worked in construction, spent some time in the military, and came out with rudimentary computer skills that he used to get a better, more technical construction job. But then, just as he was hitting what should have been his prime-earning years, it all fell apart. New technology eliminated his semi-skilled position, and an auto accident ruled out the possibility of going back to physical work.
Once again, Gamez considered college. But once again, it was hard to see the point. It wasn’t just the money, although that was part of it; even more daunting was the time commitment. He’d have to continue working, so college couldn’t be full-time, extending the number of years it would take for him to get even an associate’s degree. And then what? Would the degree be worth anything? Would college help him develop skills that he could use to get a job? Gamez wasn’t sure.
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