Education and the Next Generation

We in the United States have always put the watermark of success of a post-secondary education after the Second World War. Most developed countries have indeed done the same. However, that watermark has come under strong scrutiny after the rapid increase in cost, the high rates of college graduate employment, and the real world expectations of students and parents.

The idea to write a brief post was inspired by Allison Jones’ blog post about student loans being forgiven in bankruptcy court. I left a comment there about how just by having that conversation, the higher education system has failed America. My reasoning? Simple really. If we are telling young people that education is the key to success, charge them a rate to obtain that knowledge that rises faster than inflation, and then see them fail after that so woefully they are in bankruptcy court – something is seriously wrong.

So what should we be preparing young people for in undergraduate studies? Most schools would say “life” and cite the true nature of an academic setting – that of finding oneself in the world after leaving home. And I would agree with that to an extent.

However in 20 years, with an average of 4% a year increase in tuition – sending a child to a 4 year school will cost $90,000. Think about that.

A study by Anthony Carnevale at the Georgetown Center on Education for the Workforce has looked at the 10 year time span from 2008 to 2018 and its employment needs throughout the 50 states.  Carnevale however, has found that despite the need of a workforce that will need 63% of its workers to hold a post-secondary education – colleges are failing to provide young people with the ability to perform those jobs.

What does this mean for the nonprofit sector? Over the next 10 years of those positions offered in the Community Services and Arts Occupation (which nonprofits operate almost exclusively in, but the occupation is not exclusive to nonprofits), 91% will need to have some post-secondary education. Of that percentage – 80% will need a 2 year Associate’s Degree or higher. (PDF of Exec Summary so you can check my ad-hoc math skills)

The nonprofit sector – as you develop in part of its leadership core of administrators and executives – will be highly reliant on the institutions of higher education over the next ten years. That means your organization’s mission will depend on the next generation of young nonprofit leaders getting the best education they can. That is what ever “education” goes for by then.


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