Multiple Pathways to Economic Mobility

Post-secondary education is often endorsed as the primary pathway for economic advancement. Higher education provides enriching learning opportunities, helps students make meaningful connections, and sets the foundation for a successful career. While much can be gained from the college experience, other pathways following high school can foster both personal and economic growth.

According to a recent report from the Brookings Institution, the number of Black adults with college degrees has doubled in the past two decades. Despite that, Black median income has largely remained stagnant. In 2000, the Black median income was $43,581, and by 2019, the Black median income increased by less than $500 to $44,000.

Black families are significantly less likely to experience economic mobility than white families—almost wholly due to a disadvantage between Black men and White men. Research from renowned economist Raj Chetty, Harvard University’s Nathaniel Hedren, and the U.S. Census Bureau, shows that downward economic mobility is also much higher among Black Americans and Native Americans born into upper- and upper-middle-class families.

As college costs continue to rise, new light is being shed on the impacts of student loan debt—particularly for communities of color. Student loan debt holders are more likely to be people of color and according to the National Center for Education Statistics, Black college graduates owe approximately $25,000 more than white college graduates.

Student loan debt is shaping the conversation about higher education and many young people are exploring alternatives to higher education that reap long-term benefits with less risk.

Alternatives to four-year colleges include community college, trade school and apprenticeship programs. Career educational credentials, like an associate’s degree from a community college, are typically less expensive, take less time to complete and can serve as preparation for transferring to a four-year school.

Technology, healthcare, and utility services are popular industries with a growing need for trade skills. Additionally, a Business Insideranalysis of a September 2021 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates growth in installation, maintenance and repair trade jobs.

There are also a tremendous amount of free educational tools and programs through platforms like CourseraGeneral Assembly, and Udemy, that help people learn additional professional skills such as business writing, project management and coding. Other skills like graphic design and web development can also support viable careers without the need for a four-year degree.

When considering alternatives, it is important to research and understand the options available. At Capital Partners for Education, we take a mentorship approach that prioritizes what is best for each individual student. For high school graduates entering the next phase of life, it is best to explore with an open mind. There is no set path that one must take or that guarantees economic advancement. The choice is personal and students should choose options based on their situation, passions and interests.

The future of work—and education—are changing in more ways than one and we are adapting with it. Capital Partners for Education will launch a multi-year strategic plan this year that supports young people in exploring and connecting to multiple options following school, including four-year colleges, community college, trade schools and apprenticeship programs.

Students in the academic middle can succeed, no matter which pathway they choose after graduation. And they can accomplish even more with your support.

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