Graduation is just the beginning…

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As I See It

BY ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO

June is graduation month and most of our students are graduating from various high schools, colleges and universities. They thought they are done with their education… only to find out that graduation is just the beginning for a better life.

After graduation, the graduates have to look for jobs. This is where the competition begins. High school graduates have better chances to land into a job compared to applicants without diploma. College graduates, however, have better chances in getting a job compared to high school graduates.

A new study, according to Alexandra Tilsley, finds that recent college graduates weathered the recession better than their 21-to-24-year-old counterparts with only a high school diploma. So a college degree still helps and of a better advantage when it comes to job search.

The Pew Economic Mobility Project, in its attempt to shed light whether or not a degree still helps people find better jobs and earn more money reveals that the simple answer is yes! And, as the study’s main finding suggests, the impact of a college degree has not been affected by the recession.

Diana Elliott, research manager of Pew’s Economic Mobility Project also noted that according to the Pew study, associate degree holders also fare better than high school graduates.

In high school, there’s a new twist of events impacting school administrators. Educators and parents are happy graduation rate grew from 82.3 percent in 2014 to 83.2 percent in 2015. They, however, need to know that it’s still short compared to the national goal of 90% by 2020, according to the Grad Nation report contained in the article written by Dian Schaffhauser published lately.

The country registered a steady increase of graduates for five consecutive years, but the growth at that pace is too slow to catch up with the national goal. To meet the target, according to the report, the graduation rate will need to increase 1.4 percentage points annually.

What’s significant, however, is that there is a steady increase of high school graduation nationwide. “Progress since 2001 in raising high school graduation rates has resulted in 2.8 million more students graduating from high school rather than dropping out. Since the 2010–2011 school year, the national high school graduation rate is up more than four percentage points, rising from 79 percent to a record high of 83.2 percent in 2015…” one of the authors of Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rates said.

In this report, it identifies five areas needed to be addressed as indicators for success if the United States really wants to meet its national goal in graduation rates.

The first one is raising the number of low-income students who graduate. “Nearly half of the country’s class of 2015 cohort — 48.2 percent, a slight increase from 2014 — came from low-income families,” the report stated. The gap between low-income students and their middle- and upper-income peers currently stands at 13.7 percentage points.

Lifting the number of Black and Hispanic/Latin students who graduate is the next area. These groups made the greatest gains — nine and 15 percentage points, respectively — in graduation rates between 2006 and 2012. “It’s really up to the states to drive their improvements,” noted co-author Robert Balfanz, director of the Everyone Graduates Center.

Then comes Elevating the success of students with disabilities.

According to Balfanz, “Thirty-three states report high school graduation rates below 70 percent for this group in 2015; almost half had graduation rates below 60 percent, while students with disabilities are fully capable of earning a standard state diploma.”

There is also a need to boost the number of English language learners who graduate. “Barely a third of ELL students are graduating on time,” in Arizona and New York, the research found. Hawaii, Maryland and Virginia graduate less than half of their ELL students. A third of ELLs who failed to graduate on time are located in California alone.

The last way is tackling the issue of “low graduation rate in high schools.” When reporting began, there were 2.5 million students enrolled in a thousand “large, low-graduation-rate high schools.”

(“Large” is defined as having at least 300 students.) That number has been cut in half, said Balfanz, and now fewer than 900,000 students attend them.

While these factors are limiting the national goal of graduation success, significantly high school diploma is becoming to be a good passport for stable jobs, compared to early times. According to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it may be difficult to get a job after leaving high school, but one is more likely to be employed if he or she have a diploma.

CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists International’s new analysis show high-paying occupations for high school graduates aren’t necessarily entry-level jobs. Examples of 10 highest-paying, non-farm jobs that require a high school diploma for minimum entry and require short-term or no on-the-job training with an average hourly pay from $25 – $35 from 2010 – 2014 are transportation, storage and distribution managers; first-line supervisors of non-retail sales workers; gaming managers; real estate brokers; first-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers; first-line supervisors of mechanic, installers and repairers; legal support workers; postal service mail carriers; transit and railroad police; and property, real estate and community association managers.

Rosemary Haefner, vice president of Human Resources for CareerBuilder said, “While the pursuit of higher education is the best bet for gainful employment, it is a myth that only good jobs go to college graduates and that workers with high school diplomas are destined to low-wage careers.”

What matters is that career planning and preparation should occur throughout students’ academic studies. And… students should be sure to prepare for the long run – for their lifelong careers or multiple careers for better results.

Okay, the evidence that a college degree significantly improves one’s employment prospects and earnings potential is overwhelming.

Bachelor’s degree holders earn about $32,000 more than those whose highest degree is a high school diploma. The earnings gap between college graduates and those with less education continues to widen.

Today, Millennials with a high school diploma earn 62 percent of what the typical college graduate earns. In 2016, recent graduates’ income reached its highest level in over a decade—a median of $43,000 a year for bachelor’s degree holders aged 22–27. For high school graduates the same age, median earnings are $25,000 a year.

So a college education is about more than just securing a job and a steady income. Health and safety, prerequisites for leading a fulfilling life considered, bachelor’s degree holders are 47 percent more likely to have health insurance provided through their job and their employers contribute 74 percent more to their health coverage. Life expectancy is also longer for those who attend college. Studies suggest that those who have attended at least some college can expect to live seven years longer than their peers with no postsecondary education.

The bottom line is… while students are still in their lower years, they need to already be preparing for their future. Since graduation is just the beginning of a better life, students should already be aware and already be preparing for the job market so that when they graduate, they just have to continue the job-search for a better life!

(Elpidio R. Estioko was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and an award-winning journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email author at estiokoelpidio@gmail.com).

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