Increased federal support of high-quality occupational credentialing opportunities could be an alternative to a “free” four-year degree, proposes a new report from the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI).
The report finds that federal support of such programs, including the extension of federal Pell grants, could aid in closing the skills gap and offer an equally viable and debt-free path to middle-class mobility and economic security.
“The single-minded focus on college diminishes other, equally viable paths to middle-class security – such as in health care, information technology, advanced manufacturing, and other skilled professions – that require specialized occupational ‘credentials’ but no four-year degree,” writes senior fellow Anne Kim in the report.
Kim argues that existing higher-ed policy favors a monolithic view of postsecondary education–as a single block of time in the life of a young adult between the ages of 18 and 22 with a four-year degree as the optimal outcome. But this kind of framework neglects to acknowledge both students’ and employers’ needs in today’s rapidly-changing economy.