Education is the economic issue of our time.

Education is the economic issue of our time.
Last week in the home town of our UPCEA President Judy Ashcroft, President Obama indicated in a speech that education is the economic issue of our time.  He indicated that it’s an economic issue when the unemployment rate is doubled for those who have no college experience; education is an economic issue when most of the new jobs will require training and at least some higher education; education is an economic issue when the US has fallen to 12th worldwide in graduation rates.
I agree with President Obama, education is an economic issue.  Part of the economic issue is that we have a degree gap, which then results in a salary gap.   A recent report from Jobs for the Future, a Boston-based research organization, showed that the United States is falling behind other developed nations in terms of the share of population with a college degree1.
The report suggests that if the trend does not change, the US will have 15.6 million fewer bachelor’s and associate-degree holders than we need to in order to continue to be competitive in the world market1.
If the US is to avoid this outcome, we need to increase our annual degree production by more than 37 percent, meaning that we will need to reach beyond the 18-22 year olds we reach now.  
If the educational gap remains unaddressed, the “personal income per capita in the United States is projected to decline from $21,591 in 2000 to $21,196 in 2020—a drop of $395.”3
A recent report from the Lumina Foundation for Education, “Hitting Home: Quality, Cost, and Access Challenges Confronting Higher Education Today,” suggests that higher education can take proactive steps to help close the degree gap.  The report suggests a new pathway to a degree.  The pathway would include:
-developing pre-baccalaureate, career related certificate programs
-providing part time degrees
-creating year round, accelerated and convenient program
-facilitating degree mapping2
We clearly have a leadership role in addressing this issue, we truly should be and are on the front line through our Advocacy for Access, Accountability, and Affordability,
1Schmidt, P. (2007) America is falling behind other nations in degree attainment, report warns, The Chronicle of Higher Education, accesses online.
2Pusser, B., Breneman, D.W., Gansneder, B. M., Kohn, K. J., Levin, J. S., Milam, J. H., and Turner, S. A. (2007), Returning to learning: Adults’ success in college is key to America’s future, Lumina Foundation for Education New Agenda Series.
3(2007), Per capita income of U.S. workforce projected to decline if education doesn’t improve, excerpted from the National Policy Alert from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education for an issue paper to inform the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education.

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