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on Leading the Next Generation


The College Gap

college gap

Here’s a fact that may be news to you. Kids today are among the first generation in a century that may be less educated than their parents. Yep. This is the issue that has educators and social scientists musing: America’s trend has been that children are typically more educated than their parents, through each generation. Today—that trend is in decline.

But why? Here are some reasons from my perspective.

1. College education today doesn’t guarantee a job, but it does guarantee a debt

Many adolescents know friends who got their bachelor’s degree, and now have no job but they do have a $25,000 debt. They don’t want to take that risk.

2. They now see beyond the one gauge their parents had for success: a college degree

For years, Boomer parents said: my kids will go to college!  It was a reflection on them. Today, kids now look for other creative avenues to pursue their dreams or make a living.

3. Few have any interest in courses that don’t seem relevant to their career

Our culture conditions kids to be pragmatic. They have a Google reflex. Stimulation and information overload keep them from investing in a liberal arts degree with no sure ROI.

4. Many adolescents don’t possess the Emotional Intelligence for student success

Many have never shared a room, a bathroom or developed conflict resolution skills. Low- level social skills and low self-awareness prevent them from healthy campus living.

5. The cost of higher education has swelled higher than inflation rates

For some, college isn’t a realistic proposition. While working graduates do make more money, the degree costs more than it’s worth due to high debt and unemployment.

6. A large amount of kids have atrophied virtues that enable them to finish well

Virtues like old-fashioned discipline, patience or tenacity have atrophied like an unused muscle. Kids used to speed, convenience and passivity find the rigors of school difficult.

7. Lack of support from those closest to them

Without constant encouragement, many drop out of education. Dysfunctional home environments or going solo make it difficult. It’s tough to finish the journey without help.

The fact is—when Generation Y was first surveyed in 2000, 90% of them planned to attend college. Today, almost a third of them don’t finish high school. Sadly, the rigors of high school don’t prepare young adults for the world they’re about to enter. We must develop employable skills in them in high school and college. While I am a firm believer in the value of education, not all kids should go to college. Many need to further their education in technical fields or vocational training to fill jobs that don’t require liberal arts degrees. It sounds cliché, but today we need education to help emerging employees both get the corner office and build the corner office.

Talk to me. Can you think of other reasons for this trend? And…is this bad?



  1. Jules Glanzer on June 27, 2013 at 7:57 am

    Yes, tuition has increased. But so has scholarships. I am a college president and each year the amount of money that we award for scholarships, both participatory and academic, continues to rise. The primary driving reason is that Mommy and Daddy want to be able to say that their little Johnny or Sussie recieved a big scholarship. High School commencements announce the total scholarships awarded their students. The “scholarship game” is one of the driving forcdes in raising tuition coasts.

  2. Joseph Lalonde on June 27, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Another trend that is happening is the world wide web is wide open to most people now. People can obtain quite the education from different websites, and even colleges, that offer training in specific areas.

  3. Bill Wyler on June 29, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Several kids coming out of high school are first pursuing social or missional trips to other countries to help the poor. They seem to have a big heart to help others. Some are finding jobs after 2 years of technical school at rates of $17 per hr to $25 per hr. Working for pay with some free time after work appears to be much more appealing than sweating through hours and hours of college classes and a few boring professors for 4 years. Just saying….

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The College Gap