By Sam Solakyan
The contemporary American economy is continuously evolving, with a large section of the workforce now comprised of skilled labor and trades. With that comes an increase in the demand for such careers. Consequently, the face of higher education is adapting to prepare students accordingly, thus meeting the needs of employers.
Normalcy in higher education is no longer confined to bachelor’s degrees at four-year institutions. According to the White House, in 1990 the U.S. ranked first in the world in four-year degrees. Today, the U.S. ranks 12th. Several factors can be attributed to this change including the increasing cost of higher education and a surge in self-made entrepreneurship. But the primary factor seems to be a shift in the economy, and therefore what types of positions are needed, and what types are not. And in my opinion, it is an exciting time of great potential for those entering the world of higher education.
In 2012 the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that middle-skill jobs — those typically requiring education and post-secondary training after high school, but below the level of a bachelor’s degree — will make up approximately 45% of all job openings projected through 2014. The report, cited in a Fox Business article, noted that, “of the occupations requiring postsecondary education, those requiring an associate degree are projected to grow the fastest, at about 19%.”
The growing need for associate degrees means stable and well-paying careers are more readily accessible to students at a lesser cost. Those seeking to fulfill their dreams of achieving the financial stability and security for the future that comes with an excellent career are no longer necessarily impeded by the cost of a four-year education. These expanding opportunities in higher education positively affect a greater percentage of the population — with disciplines such as health care, engineering, computer science and technology leading to well paying careers — which means a better quality of life for individuals, and a stronger economy for the nation.
I have great appreciation for the evolution of higher education, and hold in the highest regard those students taking advantage of these new opportunities. I can empathize with those whose educational pursuits are non-traditional. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I am a proud graduate of the University of Phoenix, having obtained my bachelor’s degree while working full time and supporting a family.
The trends that are occurring are opening up newfound opportunities for individuals that may have otherwise not pursued higher education due to many of life’s responsibilities that can hinder such inspiration. And by reducing the hindrances of completing higher education, we all experience the positive impact on a macro-level. President Obama has urged everyone to commit to at least one year of higher education or post-secondary training. I concur, and encourage everyone to research how higher education is becoming more accessible, more affordable and more attainable, and then commit themselves to whichever type of training is most suitable for their talents and interests. Take part in the new landscape of higher education — for yourself, your family and your future.