The Times-Tribune

Is a high school diploma enough? Many kids say yes

In poll, 45% say high school education is good preparatio­n for future success.

- BY COLLIN BINKLEY AND HANNAH FINGERHUT

Although most young Americans believe in the value of higher education, many still consider a high school diploma alone to be enough for success, according to a survey of teens and young adults by the Associated PRESS-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The findings alarm some experts who say young Americans don’t seem to be getting the message that college pays off. Federal labor data shows a wide earnings gap between Americans who do and do not have a college degree, and unemployme­nt rates are far lower for those with a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

More than half of Americans ages 13 through 29 do see college as a path to economic success, but about 4 in 10 believe a bachelor’s degree prepares people only somewhat well, or even poorly, for today’s economy.

Meanwhile, about half said their high school education has provided the skills they need to get a good job right after they graduate. And 45% say a high school diploma is good preparatio­n for future successful workers.

Researcher­s disputed that notion, saying it has been decades since a high school diploma was enough to earn a good living.

“With a high school diploma alone, it’s very hard to earn the kinds of wages one would need to support a family,” said Thomas Brock, director of the Community College Research Center at Columbia University. “There’s just such a strong associatio­n between employment rates, as well as earnings, and education.”

In 2018, the median earnings for workers with only a high school diploma was $730 a week, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For those with a bachelor’s degree, it was $1,200, while those with a master’s degree typically made $1,400 a week.

Teens are especially likely to think high school is a good path to success in today’s economy, while young adults were less likely to say so, 51% versus 42%. And there were stark difference­s by race: At least half young black and Hispanic Americans said high school is a good path to success, compared with 41% of young white Americans.

More than any type of degree, 73% of young Americans said they think job experience is good preparatio­n for success. Their esteem for practical experience is shared by the Trump administra­tion, which has pushed to expand apprentice­ship programs, and experts say it reflects today’s economy, in which more employers require internship­s or other work experience.

While 6 in 10 said a bachelor’s degree is a route to success, an equal number said they see vocational school as good preparatio­n.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States