Access to Post-Secondary Education More Important Than Ever

June 30, 2011 | Huron Daily Tribune |  Link to article

Just as the nation’s economy is demanding that more workers have some post-secondary education or training, the traditional source of such workers — high school graduates — is leveling off and even declining in some states, including Michigan.

By 2020, the projected number of high school graduates in Michigan is expected to decline by 12.2 percent from its 2010 level.

A new brief, “Not Just Kid Stuff Anymore: The Economic Imperative for More Adults to Complete College,” released by the Center for Law and Social Policy and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, demonstrates why, in light of this trend and the changing economy, ensuring more adults have access to and complete college is critical for the nation’s continuing economic competitiveness. By 2018, the demand for college-educated workers will rise 16 percent, while demand for other workers will stay flat. At the same time, nearly two-thirds of jobs in 2018 will require some post-secondary education or training.

In Michigan, between 2008 and 2018, state labor demand will increase over five times as much for college-educated workers (116,000 additional jobs) as for high school graduates and dropouts (22,000 additional jobs). Both Michigan and the nation need more college-educated workers to fill demand for skilled workers.

That means the country’s economic competitiveness rests on more people having access to post-secondary education opportunities. Public policies will have an important role to play by making post-secondary education more accessible to high school graduates, as well as adult students who want to further their credentials. Protecting funding for federal aid, especially Pell Grants, is key, as well as availability of other financial programs (grants, scholarships, low-interest loans) to make going to college more attainable for all.

For years, Upper Thumb area school districts have realized this need and have provided opportunities for students to earn college credit while still in high school. Many high schools have implemented or soon will be implementing dual enrollment programs. By earning college credit in high school, students won’t need to take as many credits in college, thereby saving them and their families money — making college more accessible.

The Huron Area Technical Center (HATC), in partnership with Delta College, started a very valuable program in the 2010-11 school year, in which 20 local high school seniors were able to earn up to 20 college credits over two semesters. A variety of classes were offered and students were able to get a taste of what college classes will be like. According to HATC officials, this program will be expanded for the 2011-12 school year, allowing more students to participate.

HATC also offers night classes, in which high school students and/or adults can take college-level math and English composition classes through Delta College and earn six or seven college credits over one semester.

The Delta College courses offered at HATC are those needed for most college degrees, and people don’t have to drive to Bay City to take them, thanks to HATC.

Living in a rural area shouldn’t keep students from having access to a college education. That’s why local schools are working hard to be innovative in providing prime opportunities that will allow students to get a head start on their post-secondary education. A strong start will more likely lead to a strong finish ... and a successful career.

And after all, that’s what a K-12 education is all about.

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