Does everyone need a four-year college degree?

Sep 14, 2012

Yesterday, Rick Pluta reported on a speech by Gov. Rick Snyder that called for a reemphasis on vocational and community college education over more  traditional four-degrees.

We posted his story on Facebook, and many of our fans responded with their thoughts. We decided to continue the discussion by sharing some of their comments here.

Facebook fan Karen Hupp Taylor was surprised to find herself agreeing with Gov. Snyder:

I never thought I would see the day I would agree with Governor Snyder, but this is one place that I do. Not everyone should go to college. A lot of young people do because they have been told they will never amount to anything if they don't. Lots of them would like to be carpenters, electricians, and other trades people.

Nothing wrong with a women getting into many of these professions.

So how many women seek this kind of education?

A report by the National Center for Education Statistics notes that participation in vocational education, also known as career and technical education (CTE), is higher for women than men.

These days, CTE doesn't just entail the usual skilled trades people think of.

Research has shown that the three most common topics of study were business (42 percent of participants), health care (25 percent), and computer science (19 percent).

It's also important to note the distinction between secondary and postsecondary CTE.

Facebook fan Wendy Agnello wants to see more vocational training in high school:

Not everyone needs OR WANTS a four year degree, bring back Voc tech. In the old days, Det. Pub. Schls had Voc tech schools to learn trades like building, carpentry, electrician, auto body...get back to real and basic edu.

Last year, Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra reported on a Harvard study that called for CTE reform on the secondary level.

The report notes that only a third of the new jobs created between now and 2018 will require a bachelor's degree or higher.

Nearly as many jobs "will only require an associate's degree or a post-secondary occupational credential."

Aside from community colleges, there are currently 422 schools licensed in Michigan to provide this sort of training, according to Michigan's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

Governor Snyder hopes that programs like Michigan Works and Michigan Talent Bank will be able to connect trainees with the kinds of jobs that can support families.

Much of the debate around support for CTE education surrounds the idea of "return on investment."

Facebook fan Heath Chelesvig gave us an example:

...In the health care fields like nursing, OTA, Rad Tech etc. These degrees avg into the 50 to 60k range pretty quickly. This is without the much larger investment of a liberal arts degree that probably get you a job in a cube at an insurance company making 40k if your lucky. With tuition being nearly 500% higher than just a decade ago these are important questions to ask.

While it's difficult to anticipate what the 'return on investment' will be for any individual, Facebook fan David Raymire notes that states with higher percentages of  college graduates have higher per capita incomes, higher even for those without a college degree.

Help us continue the conversation here on the website, on our Facebook page, or through the Public Insight Network.

Tell us your story about an experience with vocational training.

- Jordan Wyant, Michigan Radio Newsroom