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University URLs: College & the Job Market, Reconsidered

posted Feb 10, 2017, 5:22 AM by Emily Tai   [ updated Feb 13, 2017, 11:31 PM by Jay Weiser ]
by Emily Tai 

Last Sunday’s New York Times Education Life section considered the role that college education, linked with professional apprenticeships, can play in preparing Americans for manufacturing jobs that often require advanced mathematics and computer science skills.

Educating the Apprentice

The UFS Blog has discussed the apprenticeship model—more common in Europe than in the United States—before. In the U.S., however, choosing such an educational path can carry a stigma as a non-college track. This belies its practical appeal to students who may lack the interest or the finances to pursue a traditional Liberal Arts B.A.—students like Ryan Lee, a native of Oklahoma profiled in the section’s article on students from rural areas.

As Director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce Anthony D. Carnevale noted in the Times, educational programs that serve workforce-oriented students uphold “the dignity of labor” and create “ways for students to choose training and education in their own time and sequence.”

Bricklayers & Poetry

But it’s also worth pointing out that opportunities to earn a B.A. in a traditional liberal arts subject might well beckon to these students later in life—as they move up the management ladder, for example, or even as a source of post-retirement enrichment. One might recall the words of Bud Jensen, a former bricklayer who finished his career as an advocate for liberal arts education in the Iowa community college system. “These are the hands of a bricklayer,” Jensen told the Iowa legislature in 1965. “They are calloused and hard but they have given both me and my family and excellent living. Would you deny these hands or the hands of my children or other children throughout the state the right or opportunity to read a good book? To caress a book of poetry or to learn something about higher math?”

In exploring new ways to make college accessible and affordable for everyone, colleges and university programs thus might also consider how to make it easier for non-traditional students—including adult learners who might wish to study at night, or part-time—to earn degrees in the traditional liberal arts—and realize the most democratic ideals of public higher education.

Emily S. Tai is a professor of History at Queensborough Community College who serves on the UFS Executive Committee, and edits the UFS Blog.

The UFS Blog is a forum for CUNY Faculty, and welcomes the expression of all points of view.

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