I have been critical of the Virginia higher-ed establishment’s goal of making Virginia the best-educated state in the country. The goal is arbitrary and unconnected to the demand for higher-ed degrees. Pursuing the goal could result in over-investment in higher-education at great cost to students who wind up indebted and under-employed, and at the expense of lower-income Virginians and minorities who can’t keep up with the never-ending degree inflation.
However, the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia does deserve credit for defining “best educated” as including not just four-year and advanced degrees but educational certifications, which recognize mastery of narrow skill sets in demand in the labor market. And SCHEV aims to boost programs, mostly in community colleges, that provide “certifications.
Now comes the Demographics Research Group at the University of Virginia with data showing the distribution of degrees and certifications granted in major regions across the state (measured by credentials granted per 100,000 population in the 2016-17 school year). Due to technical difficulties, I will replicate that relevant chart in a separate post. Writes Spencer Shanholz on the StatChat blog:
In 2017, Virginia as a whole awarded just over 20,000 certifications (classified as awards of less than 4 academic years, not including associate’s degrees) with rates being highest in the rural areas of the state. Southside’s certification rate was highest with 416 graduates per 100,000 residents. Southwest Virginia was not far behind, awarding nearly 400 certifications per 100,000 residents.
Students from all regions of Virginia earn educational credentials at a relatively high rate. Northern Virginia may source the bulk of students with bachelor’s degrees in Virginia, but students from the Southside and Southwest regions earn more certifications and associate’s degrees. Residents from rural areas of the state may not have the financial resources, familiarity with the college process, or proximity to major Universities, to acquire a bachelor’s degree at the rate of Northern Virginia; however, they are building valuable talent and gaining labor market value. Credentials lower than bachelor’s degrees are critical in filling many “middle skills” jobs, which are well paying and in high need.
Just because a college degree or certification originates in a particular region does not mean the degree- or certification-earner stays in that region. It is widely accepted that many students from rural Virginia who complete their degree leave their communities to find better employment opportunities in the big metropolitan areas. It’s not clear what happens to students who earn certifications, but I would conjecture that the certifications they earn are more closely aligned to the skills in demand locally and that a much higher percentage of them stay in their communities.
Certifications for dental technicians, HVAC service technicians, and the like provide access to employment opportunities at much lower cost than four-year degree programs. Lower-income students spend less time learning and more time earning, they rack up less debt, and they gain access to well-paying jobs as soon as they graduate. While four-year institutions remain fixated on the chimera of socio-economic diversity in fulfillment of their ideological agendas, the best path of upward mobility for thousands of Virginians is earning certifications at community colleges or career schools that give them access to the so-called middle-skill jobs and middle-class wages.There are currently no comments highlighted.