As technology progresses and more processes become automated, humans will need to begin developing skills that computers cannot replicate. This need for critical and artistic talent applies when we compete against global labor markets that aren’t as restrictive as our own. President Barack Obama’s proposal to finance two years of free community college to students in participating states will provide the opportunities to expand and enrich the country’s educated work force for domestic and international benefit.
College degrees are now as essential to employment as high school diplomas; the wealth gap between the middle and lower classes threatens the potential of young adults to attend higher education to obtain these requirements. Compulsory secondary education is simply not enough to lead young adults to highly-skilled, high-paying positions.
As Geneseo students, we are extremely privileged to have already taken the first steps toward developing our professional skills. To be able to extend these opportunities to future generations of young adults with such a reasonable approach is both progressive and rewarding.
A similar initiative by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam inspired Obama’s plan. Approximately 90 percent of the class of 2013 high school graduates in the state were signed up for the community college scholarships through the plan.
If these numbers were applied to every state, there would be an overwhelming population of well-qualified adults from diverse backgrounds able to join the workforce. The more diverse our workforce becomes, the more prepared and educated we will be when communicating with and engaging in global spaces.
Rebranding higher education from an expensive privilege to an affordable opportunity is an important step toward dismantling class and wage inequality. A problem exists when employers require potential hires to have high degrees, but classism prevents students from taking the next step in their education.
If implemented carefully and appropriately, this proposal can make a significant difference in the dynamic of America’s college systems and pave the way for growing job markets and improved global connections.