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Non-College Recruitment Not So Bad

When I first read that recruiters from colleges and universities were practically shunning public schools with a high proportion of low-income and minority students, I was disturbed ("College recruiters give low-income public campuses fewer visits," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 28).  The practice seemed blatantly unfair to disadvantaged seniors.

But then I realized there is another side to the story. Not all students want to attend college, nor do they possess the aptitude to succeed.  This is true at almost all public high schools. What college recruiters do, therefore, may make sense because their sales pitch would be seen as irrelevant. The usual argument about the lifelong salary premium attached to a four-year degree is based on data collected in the past.  I submit that the future is likely to present a different picture.

If I'm correct, then students who choose to attend a community college and/or work in an apprenticeship program will be better off financially as well as psychologically. When I needed a plumber this holiday season, I learned an important lesson. He was a high school graduate who had worked as an apprentice for an established plumber in the area.  He told me that he has always liked working with his hands, and has earned a steady, annual income close to $90,000 for the past 12 years.  Moreover, he is not burdened with onerous student loans.

Would this man and the auto mechanic I took my car to the day before have been better served if they had been in high schools that were inundated with college recruiters?  In other words, why do we persist in the fiction that college is for everyone, and that those who do not attend are doomed to a life of low earnings and personal disappointment? 

What about students in low-income public schools who want to go to college and possess the wherewithal? That's a different issue entirely.  Students in such schools deserve a far better opportunity to expand their horizons.  Recruiters maintain that they seek talented seniors through college fairs and other outreach programs.  But I question if these efforts are nearly as effective as on-campus meetings.  

Nevertheless, I continue to wonder if seniors who enthusiastically opt for a trade are not going to have the last laugh.  I know my plumber is.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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