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Young People Need a Degree to Succeed

Missouri students are more likely to be successful if they get some kind of post-secondary education. (Virginia Carter)
Missouri students are more likely to be successful if they get some kind of post-secondary education. (Virginia Carter)
July 15, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A high school diploma isn't enough in the post-recession job market, according to a new study from Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Since the recession ended, of jobs created, the study found 8.4 million have gone to people with at least a bachelor's degree, but only 80,000 went to workers with a high school diploma or less.

According to Center Director Anthony Carnevale, through the early 1980s, 70 percent of American workers had no more than a high school diploma, and half were high school dropouts.

"We've crossed a line in the United States where, in order to get ahead, you really do need some kind of education or training beyond high school," says Carnevale.

The cost of a college education has skyrocketed in recent years, however, trapping many people in a sort of economic Catch-22.

About 87 percent of Missouri students graduate from high school, according to the Missouri Department of Education. But as Carnevale points out, the only thing more expensive than going on to college now - is not going to college.

"On average, you'll lose a cool million dollars over your career if you don't have a college degree," he warns. "But at the same time, college is increasingly unaffordable for a larger and larger share of Americans."

Carnevale says the good news is that some associate's degrees, and even some one-year certificate programs, can lead to jobs that pay more than the average college graduate earns.

"We've got to pay a lot more attention to providing more skill after high school for all Americans," he says, "and providing retraining for people who get left behind."

The Georgetown study concludes that education beyond high school has become essential to compete in the 21st-century labor market.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO