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The 'Aspirations-Attainment Gap'

With the college application season now underway, it's worthwhile taking a closer look at what researchers call the "aspirations-attainment gap"  ("College Is the Goal. Will These Three Teenagers Get There?" The New York Times, Oct. 26). It refers to the difference between students wanting to get a degree (aspiration) and actually receiving it (attainment).

The gap is largely the result of wildly overselling the importance of a bachelor's degree. The reality is that not all students are college material, even though they have been repeatedly told that they are if they possess "grit." I fail to understand how grit alone is enough to overcome deficits in academic ability.  It takes a certain IQ to be able to do college-level work - or at least it used to until standards were lowered.

I maintain that young people are being fed a false message: No college degree means certain failure in life. But there are many unemployed or underemployed college graduates.  Conversely, there are many high school graduates who learned a trade through vocational classes in high school or through community college who are making a steady living. (I'm not talking now about the satisfaction and pleasure that is given short shrift in the debate.)

It's time to tell high school students the truth about a bachelor's degree.  Yes, it can enhance chances of landing a job in certain fields immediately after graduation, but a certificate can be even better in other fields.  It all depends on one's interests and aptitude.


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