Expect Stagnation without CompletionLori Perkovich | Master's Student, New York University
University leaders and politicians often speak about the importance of completing a postsecondary education. The Lumina Foundation and the federal government set a 60 percent degree for national degree completion for a healthy job market. In the United States, certain industries are disappearing while new ones are emerging and growing. This leads to a shift in the need for human capital expertise. These emerging labor markets lack skilled workers, and this will have a negative effect on national economic growth.
The recent recession created unemployment which created an employers’ labor market. The job market is full of people competing for jobs, and though pre-recession individuals could work their way up in an organization without a degree, that is just not the norm today. When hundreds of people apply for the same job, employers have leverage and the ability to specify educational requirements, making it more difficult for those without a degree to find work.
Advanced degree completion matters to non-traditional students for three main reasons:
1, Many Adults With College Experience but No Degree
There are a huge number of adults who attended college but did not complete a degree. The Lumina Foundation estimates that number to be approximately 22 percent of adults (over 36 million people) . In countless cases, individuals were a few credit hours or a semester away from earning their degree. Many of these individuals work in a profession that they want to continue in, and completing a degree could mean the difference when it comes to earning a promotion and higher wages.
2. Employment Requires Degree Completion
Earning a degree is also critical for adults who find themselves laid off and potentially left behind. Disappearing industries cause many older workers to lose their jobs, and typically they do not have the opportunity to transfer their skill set to other industries. These individuals are still valuable workers, with years of work experience who simply require training in an emerging field.
3. Degrees Make Career Changes Easier
For those wanting to make a career change later in life, degree completion is critical. Returning to university and completing a degree might make an older adult, formerly passed over for a younger person with a bachelor’s degree, appear more attractive to employers. A non-traditional student with years of work experience typically has critical thinking skills, the ability to work on teams, communication skills, initiative and management experience. Students returning to school to finish a degree show commitment to learning new skills and adaptability to change. These adults have the applied skills, but are perhaps lacking the specific knowledge gained by earning a bachelor’s degree in a specific field.
Completing a bachelor’s degree is a necessity in order to remain competitive in today’s uncertain job market.
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 The Lumina Foundation, “A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education,” 2010. Accessed at http://www.luminafoundation.org/state
Author Perspective: Student