TERRE HAUTE —
Within the next few weeks, each of the local colleges will have conducted graduation ceremonies.
A few days later, a different Class of 2013 will don caps and gowns for commencement — the seniors at five Vigo County high schools.
It is still a smart, worthy aspiration for those high school grads to replicate the achievement of those college students by earning a higher-education degree. Those teenagers may find the right fit here in Terre Haute at Indiana State University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, Ivy Tech Community College or Harrison College. They could look elsewhere, from Valparaiso University to the University of Southern Indiana, Purdue or Indiana universities, or Franklin or Manchester colleges, or one of the dozens of Hoosier institutions. They could study in another state. They could enter an apprenticeship program at a local trade union, learn mechanics at a tech school, or study through service in the military.
As a community, though, we should encourage the 17-, 18- and 19-year-olds to continue formal learning. It helps us as much as it helps them.
How does the tech-school degree earned by the teenager down the street help his neighbor?
The national unemployment rate dropped to a four-year low of 7.5 percent last month, and the U.S. economy added a better-than-expected 165,000 jobs in April, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.
Joblessness hits people of different skill levels at varying rates, though. A study released in March by Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research — “Labor Markets After the Great Recession: Unemployment Policy for Indiana — revealed a wide span between Hoosiers, according to their education levels and 2011 data. People without a high school diploma had a 14.1 unemployment rate. Percentages steadily dropped as learning increased, 9.4 for high school grads, 8.7 for folks with some college, 6.8 for those with associate degrees, 4.9 percent for a bachelor’s, 3.9 for a master’s, and 2.5 for a doctorate.
The gap between Hoosiers with the highest and lowest educational attainments widened during the recession, the study noted, as did the median earnings of those people. How wide is the pay difference? The average bachelor’s degree holder earns $54,756, compared to a high school grad at $33,176.
Obstacles roll into the path of high schoolers dreaming of the life as a college grad, and one of the largest is the rising cost of tuition. With the average debt in student loans topping $20,326, students and their families have begun to wonder if the degree is worth the years of payoffs. Those questions have become more intense and relevant, considering the average debt load was $10,649 in 2003, according to the Washington Post.
Education remains worth the cost, even as we more stridently call for Indiana lawmakers and university officials to double-down their efforts to control the inflationary spiral. Communities and states spend less resources on unemployment compensation, food stamp assistance, crime prevention, mental health issues and assistance for children of broken homes when education levels increase. Quality of live improves.
The high schools’ Class of 2013 should consider this month’s college graduations to be role models.