The high cost of college and the crushing weight of student debt are seldom far from the headlines these days. Community colleges and technical schools are often touted as the solution to this “crisis.” Our local community college is the second largest in the country and its student body size of 29,000 is on a par with major state universities.
Long derided as “vocational schools,” community colleges serve an important function for the local community by preparing workers for open positions. Not every employee needs a four-year degree, so why force them into a longer, more expensive course of study?
Some of those 29,000 students are preparing for transfer to “regular college” and others are just sampling a few classes for life enrichment. The community college needs this flexibility, but its funding depends on fulfilling the area’s vocational training needs.
I am of the opinion that education may be wasted on the young, but timely training is always appreciated. Many of us wish we could study English literature or Civil War history now instead of as teenagers. A few lessons in carpentry or welding as teens might have opened our eyes to very satisfying vocations instead of just do-it-yourself home and auto repairs.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution young people learned important skills alongside their parents, grandparents, or siblings. Very few had the luxury of reading a book for pleasure, learning to play a musical instrument, or building anything other than a necessary object or tool or building.
I am not suggesting we turn our backs on several hundred years of progress toward the goal of educating everyone. But it makes more sense to me that we spread the training and educating out over a lifetime so students of all ages can live the best lives possible.
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