When it comes to education, ‘14 is the new 12,’ says Carnevale

Trying to make the case for free college? Just say “14 is the new 12,” writes Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, in an op-ed for The Washington Post.

‘Not everybody needs a four-year degree’

“A high school diploma is no longer enough for gainful employment,” asserts Carnevale, pointing out that, without further education, just around 20 percent of high school graduates will obtain a “good job.”

Today’s students require 14 years of education, he says, with one key caveat: “not everybody needs a four-year degree.” Carnevale envisions that policies providing two additional years of education for every student would ideally allow individuals to choose their own path for supplemental education, potentially including online courses, community colleges, four-year private or public colleges, for-profit colleges, and job-training programs.

An alternative to ‘pay and pray’

Carnevale says this approach would offer an alternative to the current “pay and pray” system, which provides “little insight into the return on investment of college programs.” He goes on to write that “any new approach [to subsidizing college] must require transparency and accountability regarding the cost, graduation rates, and employment effects of every college program.”

‘Carefully posted on-ramps and off-ramps’

Carnevale also advocates for earlier—and universal—exposure to applied learning and career pathways to help avoid the gender, class, and racial tracking that led to a movement away from high school vocational training in the early 1980s. He suggests that applied learning could be one of many paths with “carefully posted on-ramps and off-ramps, [and] no dead ends,” as could programs that encourage transfers from community college to four-year institutions.

Ultimately, Carnevale still envisions four-year bachelor’s degrees as the “aspirational gold standard” for education in the United States, adding that any new system should eliminate “absolute barriers to the BA.”

For more information on the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, visit cew.georgetown.edu.

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