Why public higher education?
The buzz in higher education funding is about technical careers (note*). These are entry level positions that often are above minimum wage and may or may not include benefits. These positions are a great way to get to work quickly and many individuals launch their life careers with a technical education. Some of the people who have a technical education choose to step to leadership roles and may need another certification, degree, or credential, which is why connecting technical careers to a solid pathway is essential. Further, it is imperative that we consider the importance of partnering with public institutions for these pathways as they are obligated to a president, chancellor, board of trustees, state legislature, and the public. This is not about an entitlement but how our nation has entrusted the education of citizens to become productive (tax paying) members of our society. “The connections among industry, education, and government are at the core of higher education today—and for the future—and the partnership will have to be about more than just money” (Lambert, 2014). The obligation to educate and partner is considered the primary responsibility of leaders in public higher education institutions.
I believe we need to also consider the cost, benefit and portability of options in higher education institutions. In public higher education, I do not feel obligated to sell you a narrow set of options (McMillian Cottom, 2017); I want to hear about your interests, skills and educate you about choices that fit you and the current/emerging career needs in the region. This takes time and serious respect for individuality. Career availability in our region includes multiple sectors and roles, so I don’t need to determine a career for someone – they should love what they do in their career.
The risks of embarking on a higher education path include the financial, personal time, and the ability to sacrifice those costs to achieve a future benefit. If you are someone who is living paycheck to paycheck, then these risks may not seem reasonable. If you are able to begin your higher education path and then have a life hiccup that requires you to stop out, what is the risk financially and is there an opportunity to step back in? The complexity increases with family needs (children, parents, grandparents) and stability of transportation, daycare, housing, and food security. These are real. I would like everyone to consider the risk and portability options that tend to happen with public higher education institutions:
- Less risk
- Cost is reasonable
- If you take out loans, chances are you will be able to pay them back and not default
- More portable
- Credits come from regionally accredited institution; these credits are more likely to transfer
- The institution is likely to be around if you stop out and come back, so you can step in and not lose credits or years of work.
I think it is fair to reconsider how we advise and see the benefits of a public education.
Lambert, M. T. (2014). How is the historic role of public higher education changing? https://www.agb.org/trusteeship/2014/11/how-historic-role-public-higher-education-changing
McMillian Cottom, T. (2017). Lower Ed. interview heard on Fresh Air. http://www.npr.org/2017/03/27/521371034/how-for-profit-colleges-sell-risky-education-to-the-most-vulnerable
Note * my career path began in high school in a career training course and continued in an area vocational technical institute. I transitioned from career education to bachelors, masters and PhD. A pathway success.