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    Saturday, April 01, 2023

    High school need not lead to college

    At Stonington High School, a group of 17 students is participating in the state’s first Home Builders Institute’s Schools to Skills program. The program sets students on a path to careers in construction trades such as carpentry, electrical, HVAC and plumbing.

    New London High School is partnering with Porter & Chester Institute to offer students career training in several trades that are tailored to employment needs at places such as Electric Boat.

    Students in 18 eastern Connecticut high schools are participating in the Youth Manufacturing Pipeline Initiative training to learn the skills necessary for entry level manufacturing jobs immediately following high school. Waterford High School is among these schools.

    High school students throughout the region more often are being introduced to and prepared for a broader base of post-graduation possibilities. With the ever-rising cost of a college education, the mounting college debt so many young people are burdened by and the increasing demand for tradespeople and vocational employment, this shift in educational thinking is good for both high school students and the region’s employers.

    New London Schools Superintendent Cynthia Ritchie said the shift is a recognition that one size does not fit all students. “I’m really big on that,” she said.

    While the philosophy among many high school administrators once was almost exclusively focused on college preparation for their students, more often schools are now also focusing on vocational training programs, career certifications such as those for phlebotomy or certified nursing assistants, culinary and hospitality industry training, entrepreneurial preparation, internship programs, military preparation and many other options.

    This is not a return - and thank goodness for this - to the days when some students were tracked into old-fashioned shop classes to build birdhouses. Instead, this is a recognition that many lucrative and enjoyable career paths exist outside of those that require a bachelor’s or master’s degree. An immediate jump from the high school classroom to more studies at a four-year college simply is not the best option for many young people.

    According to information from the Education Data Initiative as of October 2022, the average cost of college in the United States is $35,551 annually per student. The average cost has more than doubled in the 21st century. The Initiative also lists Connecticut as having the fifth most expensive average cost for a public university education, with tuition, room and board totalling more than $28,000 annually.

    While the lifetime earnings potential for those with college degrees still far exceeds that of those with a high school diploma alone - figures from Social Security Administration research show that men with bachelor’s degrees earn a median of $900,000 more in lifetime earnings than men with high school diplomas alone - pursuing a trade, the military, business ownership or other college alternative after high school also does not necessarily mean forever forgoing a college education.

    Employers now more often offer tuition assistance for their workers, for example. Some high school graduates also will reduce their overall college costs by starting higher education at a community college. Some will earn college credits while still in high school via partnerships such as the one between New London High School and Mitchell College. Other high school graduates may defer their college studies until they are more certain about a particular career path.

    Offering more options to students heading toward high school graduation is nothing but positive. Our society needs entrepreneurs, skilled plumbers, carpenters, healthcare technicians and other tradespeople as much as we need teachers, marketing professionals, psychologists and others with four-year college degrees. We congratulate school officials for broadening their thinking about life after high school and offering programming that better fits the unique needs of every one of their high school students.

    The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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