What is the best way to prepare for a recession, apart from building assets and storing money away for a rainy day? It would seem that my high school counselor had this one right, it comes down to education. The College Advantage: Weathering the Economic Storm, released last week by the Georgetown Public Policy Institute’s Center on Education and the Workforce, shows that while the recession was tough on everyone, those with four-year or graduate degrees had it better than most. The report’s title, coupled with the images of umbrellas, sends a clear message; a college degree provides protection during hard economic times.
According to the Georgetown report, four out of every five jobs wiped out during the recession were held by employees with a high school diploma or less. That amounts to 5.6 million jobs lost, and to date there has been no recovery for that sector. However, those with even a little college education, or those holding associate degrees, only saw a 1.75 million drop in jobs and the recovery has already replaced 1.6 million of those lost jobs. Most impressive is that people with a Bachelor’s level degree or higher gained 187,000 jobs by the end of the recession, and have added another 2 million during the recovery.
This news comes as conformation to many of us who advocate for higher education, but we also need to be mindful of the rising cost of college and the growing student loan debt in this country. So when potential college students, especially those from low-income families, ask “Is college really worth it,” we need to meet that question with more than words. Connecting both recent high school graduates and older, non-traditional students to the resources needed to finance their education should be a priority.
For low-income individuals, there are some grant programs and work-study opportunities on the federal level. Also, graduates who find themselves already buried in student loans debt should see if they qualify to take advantage of federal loan forgiveness programs. On the state level, Oklahoma offers grants as well as Oklahoma’s Promise, a scholarship available to students whose parents are earning $50,000 or less and apply in the eighth, ninth or tenth grade. In the private sector, there are scholarships and some lucky individuals might even work for a company that offers tuition reimbursement. Finally, if students are extremely fortunate, they might land in a school district offering high school students a chance to earn an associate’s degree, tuition free, along with their high school diploma.
However, while there are traditional and innovative means for funding education available to some, we also need to admit the funding, requirements and availability still fall short of making tuition and fees affordable for far too many Americans. So where do we go from here? Are we willing, as a state and as a country, to provide citizens with low-incomes the opportunity to access higher education? And do we truly understand the consequences if we fail to do so?
- Oklahoma’s official state website for higher education is OKcollegestart.org.
- More information on financial assistance can be found at the homepage for Federal Student Aid.
- Information about college-high programs is available at Early College High School Initiative and you can read about Tulsa Public Schools recent efforts by clicking here.
- Click this link, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, to visit the center’s main page and find other resources.