The Rewards of Career and Technical Education
A one-size fits all approach is rarely effective, especially when it comes to an individual’s educational and career path. What works best for one is not what’s best for all. It is instilled in kids today that they need to work hard in school so that they can move on to a reputable college, get a degree, and then enter the workforce with a high-paying, long-term job. This call to get students into 4-year colleges, while simultaneously selling the falsehood that one needs such a degree to have a well-paying job, is driving Americans into a lifetime of debt, and a declining return on investment. This is paired with students overestimating their salaries upon graduation, leading to unrealistic expectations of when they can effectively start paying off student loans. In 2020, the overall student debt owed in the United States reached $1.7 trillion. The average borrower owed roughly $36,000 and more than half of borrowers owed in excess of $100,000. Recent graduates additionally are expecting to be paid 23% more than they actually will earn in their first job out of college. The financial obligations alone paint a picture of how the cost of college can outweigh the benefits.
For people who want to earn good wages in high demand fields while avoiding years of student debt, they should look to Career and Technical Education (CTE). CTE includes a variety of vocational education programs that provide suitable and more affordable alternatives to a 4-year degree. America can do with less psychology or liberal arts majors, but we can’t do with less plumbers, mechanics, or electricians. With the rise of tuition on nearly every campus in America, we must encourage people to pursue professions that don’t require the traditional higher education pipeline, and maybe prevent them from saddling their family with debt for a subjective return on investment.
This is why I introduced legislation to increase participation in CTE programs and improve awareness of alternatives to traditional higher education opportunities. My Supporting Small Business and Career and Technical Education Act and The Student Debt Alternative and CTE Awareness Act will curb students coming out of high school or individuals looking to make a career shift to look at CTE programs and businesses to hire CTE graduates.
Vocational career tracks are proven to be distinct and in specialized areas of expertise consisting of high-demand occupations. These professions can withstand changes in the job market, consumer demand, and volatile economic periods, all factors that unfortunately came to light during the COVID-19 pandemic. We must reject the current call for students and professionals to fit a single mold, not all Americans want to go to college, but all Americans want to earn good wages and provide for their family. For those who are eager to learn a trade, invest in themselves, and perform important work in their communities, we must ensure the resources are available to drive their success. My work will continue to pass my most recent CTE legislation and create increased opportunity at lower costs.