When a student has a clear objective in mind for a college major, they may find that in choosing a program to meet that objective college education is a minefield of choices. From private colleges to community colleges, from certificates to degrees, the choices can be what a recent study called a “minefield full of dead-ends, trapdoors and false promises.”
According to the author of the report, Mary Alice McCarthy, a policy analyst at the New America Foundation, a Washington, D.C., based think tank, "One hurdle facing kids leaving high school is that we offer little useful information on pathways between career programs and jobs."
McCarthy argues that the lack of information is only part of the problem. The post secondary education system was designed for four year bachelors degees, even though many students don't need a full four year program and prefer vocational certifications.
“The policies we have that help people go to college aren’t designed to help people get jobs,” McCarthy said. “The truth is we don’t really have a job training program. Our higher education policies are not designed to support quick transitions back into the labor market.”
She continues to state that our education system was designed in an era when workers earned good livings right out of high school as mechanics and machinists, and high school was the exception, not the norm. Today's careers are not learned on the job, but require certifications, which are designed in a system that was started to teach liberal arts students.
Picking the right program at a community college can lead to success, but McCarthy says that this involves picking the right major at the right school, which proves difficult.
“Too often, McCarthy said, “people do not pick the best program and end up with an AA in a liberal studies program and no connection to the job market.”