Tertiary education

Education beyond high school was once a luxury for children of wealthy families and for those targeting well-paying careers such as medicine and law. Increasingly, tertiary education (often, puzzlingly, described as “post-secondary education”) and training is essential for a large number of jobs. Yet the cost of tertiary education has grown much faster than the rate of inflation over the past four decades. Every time federal financial aid to college students has increased, colleges and universities have increased their prices to soak up the extra money that has been made available.

Offering free college education to all Americans and forgiving all unpaid student loans sounds like an attractive proposal to many young Americans. The problem with that solution is that nothing is truly free. “Free college” simply means “taking the cost of college education and dividing it among all taxpayers.” This places an undue burden on current taxpayers, and it will also burden those who receive a college education, enter the job field, and then have to support the education of other students.

The federal government should continue to provide help for college students (both incoming and continuing) who demonstrate both academic prowess and financial need. This help includes Pell Grants, guaranteed student loans, and other ways of supporting education costs of needy and capable students. In addition, the federal government should continue its program of reducing or eliminating student loan debt of workers who are contributing to the improvement of their communities and country while earning less than average wages—teachers, other community workers, medical workers providing help to low-income citizens, and the like.

At the same time, the federal government should reduce the cost of tertiary education by rewarding colleges and universities that lower costs to their students rather than constantly raising their costs. Government research grants and other gifts to institutions of higher education should be distributed with preference to those schools that are lowering the cost of education. When schools are no longer rewarded with more money every time they raise their costs, but instead are rewarded for lowering costs, the price of a college education will be made more affordable.

Meanwhile, the government should provide more support for vocational programs in high schools and community colleges. The nation needs carpenters, electricians, plumbers, auto repairers, and many other kinds of workers who do not require a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree to become adept at their job skills (and who will earn good salaries for their work). Too many programs support the traditional four-year program of tertiary education rather than helping low-income students with interest and skill in other vocations to learn a trade that will benefit them for a lifetime.

Tertiary education in the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level will continue to be important. Teachers should be educated. Workers in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) usually need advanced degrees, as do those in the GLAM fields (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums). Medicine and law will also continue to need higher education for its workers. Instead of dividing the cost of higher education among all taxpayers, though, the federal government must continue to focus its assistance on the students of greatest need, greatest potential, and largest benefit to the nation as a whole. J.

8 thoughts on “Tertiary education

  1. Another thought related to these comments. I know very few young people (yp) who did not switch majors more than once. Yp seem to have difficulty settling in and focusing, or maybe committing– and one of many factors causing this is the adundance of fatuous, dead-end majors available. They are told again and again to dream, so they do. Fewer options, and more practicsl ones, would actually be freeing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In Europe the entry process is much stricter, and students who have chosen a career path are pretty much locked into it unless they drop out of school or fail. European college students are often amazed to learn how easily American college students can experience four years of college, changing majors repeatedly, and perhaps not being prepared for any job when they receive their degree. There are good and bad things about the freedom in our system. J.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This ‘free to all’ and ‘all debts forgiven’ is driving me nuts!!!
    As you say— free is never free— someone will have to pay — and that will be you and me— the average taxpayers 😑


  3. “tertiary education (often, puzzlingly, described as “post-secondary education”)”

    My educated guess (pun intended) is that a great many people are either ignorant of the word tertiary or its meaning.

    “usually need advanced degrees, as do those in the GLAM fields (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums).”

    I think the only reason this group, and I will also include teachers below tertiary level, need advanced degrees is because the supply far exceeds the demand. The advanced degrees allow them to maintain that they are superior to their otherwise equal peers, and thus lay claim to the few opportunities available.

    Overall, I consider a college education to be excessively overvalued by both the general public and by many employers in most cases. Even in my own case, having worked as a computer programmer/analyst for more than three decades, I consider my own bachelor’s degree to have been only especially relevant when it was required by an employer.

    I think a lot of college “education” would cease if government student aid was prioritized according to the need for the field of study. For example, give no aid for Womens Studies and see if the universities wouldn’t soon drop it from their offerings.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Amen. I have six young adult kids struggling to get stable either because they took degrees in the arts or because they opted not to do college because of the debt. Kids have poor options now. If college is chosen there is far from a guarantee that the investment will pay off financially. I wish heartily that we had insisted they do trade school first, though they would have hated it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s exactly the problem–a trade school can provide a decent income for much less expense, but not everyone is cut out for that kind of work. My children are also facing the student debt and limited jobs struggle. Most of them are making their way through, but at least one has fallen through the cracks in the system. J.

      Liked by 1 person

      • A little positive update. My youngest, who was still struggling over whether to go to college, has just been hired at a small printing/screen-printing biz as a graphic designer. With her own desk, etc. I congratulated her for doing so without spending $80,000.

        Liked by 1 person

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