As someone who spends his whole life working to get young Black and Brown kids into college, I spend a lot of time reading about all of the benefits of college, all of the opportunities that college creates and all of the options that college creates for our most at-risk youth.
What I’ve also noticed recently is a steady flow of articles and opinion pieces that argue about how many more opportunities there are for Black and Brown kids without college. Whenever I see a piece like this, the first thing I always think is the same. “If you truly think that college isn’t necessary, then let’s try the same kind of plan with YOUR children.” I am certain that the answer we would receive about their own children would be very different.
Right there is the crux of this issue for me on so many levels. When “experts” talk about how not having a college or secondary education can lead to a form of “success” in the workplace, they mean other people’s children — the Black and Brown youth who need a high-quality education to be competitive. According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, approximately 65 percent of jobs in 2030 will need some sort of college degree. Based on research done by a partner consulting firm, over 80 percent of “good” jobs — those that lead to potential growth, benefits and higher future earnings — will need a college degree or certificate of some sort. Our states even recognize the need to have significantly more college graduates available to continue to grow the future economy, many of which are moving toward tuition-free community college and setting goals like the Texas 60×30 program, in which the state is aiming to have at least 60 percent of its population earning some sort of higher-education degree or certificate by the year 2030. These lofty goals aren’t merely a way of bettering the populace. They are necessary to continue to expand a growing economy.
Anyone who says that college and career-readiness programs and some level of postsecondary training aren’t a need assumes that opportunities for great careers already exist and will continue to exist. But the fact of the matter is that many of the really strong, middle-class careers that didn’t require post-secondary education are disappearing by the day and are being automated even more. Even roles in fields like accounting — long considered work that required a human element — are being automated. Preparing our children to find the best possible career opportunities that yield them extensive options in life is part of the work that we as K-12 organizations need to be focused on.
At Uplift, we’ve decided that we need to do just that. We recognize the benefit of post-secondary education and firmly believe that every child deserves the opportunity to start and finish their college career. That is why our network has a goal of having 70 percent of our alumni graduate from either a college or certificate program.
We know not every graduate will go directly into a college or certificate program. As a network, we’ve decided to do all we can to understand our best way to create college and career strategies for ALL our alumni. As far as I am concerned, this is our job as K-12 educators.
Preparing our students for the world beyond high school is what college and career readiness is all about. Continuing to create even more opportunities for the youth and families we serve has to be the focus. The more strategic and supportive we can be to align our work to post-secondary systems that support our students in the way that each one needs will help us build the kind of equitable future our country needs.
Daniel Gray is the senior director of Road to College for Uplift Education