Post-secondary means money

There’s nothing like a brutal recession to reinforce the value of a good education.

The U.S. unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in Feb., the highest in 25 years. A closer look reveals that the jobless rate is an alarming 12.6 percent for people who lack a high school diploma. It’s considerably lower, 8.3 percent, for high school graduates, and only 4.1 percent for college grads.

A nationwide census showed these estimated annual incomes for 2007 for workers 25 and older at varying levels of education: $19,405, less than high school graduate; $26,894, high school graduate; $32,874, some college or an associate degree; $46,805, bachelor’s degree; $61,287, graduate or professional degree.

Those numbers make a point that’s often hard to drive home to kids struggling in school: The more education you get, the greater your job and the higher your income likely will be.

A college graduate with a stimulating, purposeful career is likely to lead a happier life than a high school dropout hamstrung by limited education and a dead-end job.

There are exceptions to the general rule that better-educated persons make more money and have greater job security. Some multimillionaires were high school dropouts whose innate smarts and drive led them to success.

The need for a strong formal education is greater than ever in today’s global knowledge- and information-based economy. No one is emphasizing that more forcefully than President Barack Obama, who rose from humble circumstances to graduate from Harvard Law School and attain the nation’s highest elected office.

There are mixed emotions about some of Obama’s recent exhortations on education. Longer school days or extended school years? How much extra cost might that entail for taxpayers? Do students have the attention span for more class hours? What effect would such a change have on already hardworking school administrators and teachers?

Teacher merit pay? What criteria should determine which teachers receive merit pay and how much? How politicized could this issue become? Could it hurt teacher morale?

It’s very pleasing to see Obama placing education on a high pedestal.

Obama praises the GI Bill that ‘sent a generation to college and created the largest middle class in history.’ He’s concerned that America has ‘one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation’ and that ‘half of the students who begin college never finish.’

He urges all students to ‘commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training.’ He adds, ‘Every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.’

If you don’t think education is important, just chew over those unemployment statistics.