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22-Jul-2015

Students jump-start careers attending community college


This may come as a shock to many of you coming from a parent, high school coach, college graduate, financial advisor and mayor: I am rethinking my position on the importance of a college degree in the scope of career paths for our young people.


There is no question that if you aspire to be a physician, attorney, educator or engineer you need to pursue this path. However, the federal government has created a predicament for today’s youth by making educational funds too easily attainable over the past 15 years, without working with institutions to control the inflationary costs of education. Our higher learning institutions took advantage of this and spent exuberantly on campuses, transitioning from campuses of higher learning to acres of sprawling multi-million dollar buildings, raising costs each year, often by double digit percentages, simply because they could.


It isn’t uncommon for a college graduate to complete their bachelor’s degree in a field of study where they can’t find an immediate job. This coupled with $50,000+ of student loans, makes it impossible for them to buy a home because they are forced to service their debt load and pay enormous amounts of money each month to health care coverage they can’t afford. They are often working in a job they could have done with a high school diploma.


I look for the community college path to accelerate rapidly in the future of post-secondary education driven primarily by affordability, at least for the first couple years of a bachelor’s degree program. I also envision high schools doing a better job of directing pupils down career paths, not simply having counselors, but active programs designed around specific career pathways. Grand Island has begun with the Career Pathways Institute curriculum, but that should only be the first step. We need a complex curriculum developed for kids that have aspirations other than college so they are marketable to the competitive job market the day they graduate.


I’m not a big fan of celebrating incredibly low unemployment. Here’s why: It stunts growth. Grand Island has a very low unemployment rate. If I am an outside business looking at expansion options, one thing that would concern me about bringing a new business to Grand Island where I would need 100 employees would be, where will the people I need to hire come from?


I am certainly not hopeful that we suffer massive layoffs in our private sector, so how do you remedy this? You work with the educational systems in the community to make high school graduates more marketable and prepared and you work to create a thriving community college experience so these college students can backfill the immense needs for food service and retail jobs, like what is being done in booming college towns similar to Lincoln.


If our focus is on creating higher paying jobs, not just creating jobs, the tide will turn and businesses that require higher education or trade skills will target Grand Island for future growth.


We also have to work better to educate our young people about personal finance so they will be better prepared to make choices on their future career paths, have less debt and be in a better position to become a bigger piece of our local economies.


About the Author

Jeremy Jenson
Mayor, Grand Island

Jeremy was sworn in on December 9 as the newest mayor of Grand Island He is a senior financial advisor and partner with Helix FinancialJeremy was raised in Grand Island is a graduate UNL with a degree in finance and economics. He also played football for UNL from 1992-1993.

 


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