Home Online Education Access and Affordability Should Skills Training Replace Higher Education? Yes, the “Expensive Wandering” Part
Should Skills Training Replace Higher Education? Yes, the “Expensive Wandering” Part

Should Skills Training Replace Higher Education? Yes, the “Expensive Wandering” Part

skills training

Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart and former executive director for education of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, recently wrote about changing criteria in considering college education versus other pathways pursued by high school students and their parents.

Vander Ark cites Dr. George Kuh’s October 2019 piece in the Harvard Business Review in which Kuh defends the long-term benefits of a liberal arts degree. Vander Ark shares my view in stating that price hikes in higher education have made the risk of debt without a degree the new worst-case scenario for Generation Z students. He cites Ryan Craig’s book, A New U, noting that the new rule for young people is to attend a good selective school for free if possible and so motivated. If not, look to stay debt-free and sprint to your first job.

In addition to sharing Craig’s recommendation, Vander Ark provides a few more rules for students: first, build your resume while in high school; second, secure college credits before graduating; third, don’t take on debt without a clear sense of purpose; and, lastly, aim for sustainable, lifelong learning. His idea of securing college credits before graduating is excellent. He notes there are more than 400 early college high schools in the U.S., with 199 of them in Texas. Based on feedback from my two daughters attending universities there, the state’s high schools send many of their graduates to Texas schools with nearly a year’s credit, saving both students and the state time and money.

In concluding, Vander Ark responds to Dr. Kuh’s question, “Should skills training replace higher education?” with a qualified “Yes.” “Yes, free and debt-free skills training should replace expensive wandering while developing maturity and a sense of purpose and racking up debt.” I agree with most of his recommended options. However, I have not seen debt-free skills training offered by any colleges or training companies. The best place for receiving those is likely in apprenticeship offerings. Short of that, I’d find a job with a college tuition benefit or attend a low-cost institution taking courses that will transfer later. As to the latter, I can refer you to the Georgetown University research study in which APUS landed at #93 in ROI – in the top 2% nationally — due to our low tuition cost.

Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston was appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity by the U.S. Secretary of Education in 2019. He also serves as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), as a Trustee of The American College of Financial Services, as a member of the board of Our Community Salutes - USA, and as a member and chair of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.


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