Two-Year Colleges: Appreciating an Educational Choice

North Carolina’s move toward new high school graduation requirements that serve to funnel every student toward a four-year college education is meeting with serious objections from educators and others who appreciate the kind of training and technical education provided by two-year colleges. (See our earlier blog post here.) The issue is especially important to manufacturers, who place great value in employees who have gained technical skills and who are motivated to enter the workforce sooner rather than later.

Joe Loughery, president and COO of Cummins Inc. and chairman of The Manufacturing Institute, has responded to newspaper coverage of the debate with an important op-ed that appeared in Tuesday’s Raleigh News & Observer, “The Value of Technical Education.” His comments carry additional weight in North Carolina, because Cummins’ joint venture with Consolidated Diesel Company employs about 1,600 people in Whitaker, N.C.

Simply this: Not every teenager who graduates from high school wants to go to college, nor does every rewarding career require a four-year college degree. In fact, fewer than half of North Carolina’s graduating seniors say they plan to go directly to a four-year college or university.

For many of those students, technical and vocational education offers an attractive alternative by providing the training to enter a challenging, well-paying career in advanced manufacturing. And that is exactly the type of education that seems to be in the cross-hairs of governments today.

We admit to be somewhat mystified by a political environment that puts an inordinate emphasis on four-year college educations as somehow the only education of any worth. It’s a view divorced by economic reality, sure, but it also shows a disregard for young people who choose to pursue another path in life. Many people do appreciate a community college education. We wish they’d respect it, too.