Editorial: Focus on college degrees detracts from success on trade schools

By The Pitt News Editorial Staff

A college degree is often considered the unit for measuring success in the United States. Last week the first lady showed her support for the president’s educational goals by revealing a new education initiative.

Michelle Obama’s initiative, which coincides with President Barack Obama’s plan of making the United States the top country in the world in terms of college degrees conferred, is focused on talking to and encouraging students from low-income communities to prepare themselves for and apply to college.

The United States currently ranks 12th in the world in the percentage of citizens who have college degrees. Raising the country’s rank to first would show the rest of the world the United States’ focus on the importance of education. The first lady told the students that although it is important to reach the goal the president has set, their personal success is just as important. 

To keep to this sentiment, Michelle Obama must acknowledge that success comes in many forms, and college isn’t for some people. This does not mean they can’t find success. Instead of going to college, some students might choose to attend trade schools, which is an equally viable option.

Although the first lady’s push for more students to attend college is admirable, she should also show her support for trade professions. During the 2006-2007 school year, 16 million students opted to attend trade schools to learn industry-specific skills that will prepare them for the work force, versus 9.66 million students enrolled in 1999.  

By pushing for students to attend universities and implying that attending college is the most likely path to success, Michelle Obama places attending trade school at a lower level of importance. This only furthers the stigma attached to trade schools.

In reality, trades are as integral to societal success as business owners with four-year degrees. 

People label trade degrees as unimportant or comment that they lead to less prestigious careers than those available to four-year degree holders. 

Trade job salaries range from high to low, as in any industry, but trade jobs do pay well and are a part of stable industries that allow for solid job security. According to CNN, the average starting salary for skilled trade workers is between $50,000 and $60,000 per year. 

Michelle Obama preached that personal success is important, and now she must stand by those words and acknowledge that there are more ways to measure success than by a college degree.