Why Businesses Must Help Solve America's Higher Education Crisis

Posted by Liz Dwyer

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Most modern jobs require some form of postsecondary education. But despite the fact that more Americans earn college degrees than at any time in history, everyone from the College Board to President Obama is worried that our education system won't produce enough qualified people for 21st-century jobs.

So how do we boost the number of people with degrees and certificates? According to a new report from the Committee for Economic Development, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, part of the answer involves influential businesspeople advocating for public policies that increase the quality of and financial support for postsecondary education, then aligning their corporate policies with this agenda.

CED argues business need to "become active advocates at the state level" for what the group calls "broad-access" institutions—less expensive and selective community colleges and trade schools that enroll the bulk of high school graduates. These schools tend to enroll more low-income, minority, and nontraditonal students, but because they’re less prestigious, they're often neglected.

CED says businesses should work with these schools to develop more efficient and innovative ways to educate students and ensure they reach graduation goals. With budget cuts decimating many community colleges, influential advocates at the state level could help ensure that these schools are able to keep the lights on and offer a quality education to students who have no other options.

And because 37 million workers have started a degree or certificate program but never finished, CED says it's essential that businesses offer more tuition assistance and flexible hours so employees can go back to school. Just imagine if every business invested in the education and training of its employees—that would surely increase workplace innovation. And that would represent a win-win for the employer and employee.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Parker Michael Knight