Preparing the work force America’s economy requires

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(ARA) – America does not have the work force necessary for the economy it has and needs. That was the conclusion of the Commission on the Future of Higher Education in 2006. This Bush-era Commission went on to note that if current trends are not reversed, U.S. per capita income would actually decrease over the next 15 years.

In recognition of the bipartisan nature of this challenge, President Obama has set a national goal of increasing undergraduate degree completion by 60 percent by the year 2020. According to economists, this level of degree production is necessary to maintain a competitive position within the knowledge-based global economy.

Having once led the world in the percentage of adult workers ages 24 to 64 who have a degree, the U.S. now ranks 17th among those with a bachelor’s degree among major industrialized nations.

Even before the recent recession, it was clear that higher education would not be able to meet the president’s goal by simply graduating more traditional-aged students alone. In order to reach the competitive level called for, greater attention must be given to the 54 million adults who have some college, but no degree.

To meet the challenges seen by two administrations and to get more of today’s work force back on the job and better prepared for future economies, the following steps must be taken:

* Increase awareness of the value of a degree: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 4.7 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree are unemployed today.

* Provide credit for prior learning using American Council on Education (ACE) and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) guidelines, and credit-by-exam programs such as those from the College Board or Excelsior College.

* Accept appropriate credits from other institutions in transfer. In 2009, Excelsior College saved students and American tax payers $185 million in tuition through its transfer acceptance policies.

* Acknowledge the significant role the nation’s community colleges play in helping students prepare for and achieve a bachelor’s degree.

* Offer academically sound online degree options that enable students to study while staying employed and meeting family obligations. In doing so, working adults can save on child care expenses and reduce commuting time which leads to lower carbon emissions.

* Recognize that many high-quality programs can be accessed for much less than the $50,000 per year charged by a few elite institutions. Through a combination of state and federal financial aid, employer tuition assistance, VA benefits, a variety of scholarships and reasonable payment plans, the cost of education can be far more affordable than is often thought.

Finally, one of the biggest barriers to a degree is the lack of a high school diploma. Re-entry points must be found so that those who have dropped out – 30 percent of secondary school students nationally – can earn a GED and continue their education.

Excelsior College, an accredited, non-profit, independent institution chartered by the Board of Regents of the State of New York, has been helping those not well-served by traditional higher education for nearly 40 years.

Courtesy of ARAcontent