President Barack Obama’s “Education for All” plan aims to give every American a chance at a college education.
But that’s not the message many students and parents want to hear.
A growing body of research suggests that a college degree is not the most important way to reach college.
It’s not just the best education; it’s the only one that matters.
For more than a century, U.S. education policy has focused on getting students into top-ranked universities, with the expectation that they’ll finish school in four years.
That’s not how it works, says Dan Gross, an associate professor of education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Instead, students are more likely to take a college class and complete college at a lower level than they are to finish college.
If the goal is to get students into college, Gross says, you want to ensure they finish it at a higher level than the country’s highest performing schools.
The Obama administration says it will spend $10 billion to build a new online high school, a new charter school, and new college preparatory programs.
But students and families in states like Florida and Georgia who want to keep their children at home are worried about what they see as an out-of-date and disconnected approach to college education in the U.K., Ireland, and other countries.
“If you’re a middle-class kid who wants to go to college, there are some things you can do to improve your odds of going to college,” said Lisa Miller, a parent of two elementary school-age children.
She also worries about what the president’s plan will do to her children.
The president’s new education initiative, she said, “seems like an excuse to keep kids from going to school, while at the same time we’re spending billions on education and creating an economy that will be so depressed that people won’t even want to go out and work.”
The White House says it’s committed to keeping children out of schools, but parents are concerned.
“This plan will only exacerbate our country’s economic challenges,” said Josh Miller, president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, a nonprofit that represents schools.
“Our kids deserve the best,” he said.
“The President’s plan does nothing to improve outcomes.
It puts a blind spot on education for kids of color and women, who are disproportionately affected by the lack of opportunities for college.”
But even in the midst of this debate, parents say that if their kids do end up at the top of their classes, it’s not going to be because they went to the best school.
“I would say this plan will not improve outcomes,” said Amy Gershoff, whose five-year-old son graduated from a prestigious college program in Maryland last fall.
“I’d like to see a little more focus on early childhood, where you have a lot of opportunities to get into college.”
Parents of kids who do not go to a college-ready institution are divided on how to improve the education outcomes of their children.
Some say it’s too early to make sweeping changes.
They say the focus on making colleges more affordable for families, and the fact that the Obama administration has already taken steps to help students get into the best colleges, won’t help.
They want to see the government invest more in the arts and more in STEM fields, but are also skeptical that Obama’s plan can do much to fix the education problem.
“This is just a piece of a much larger agenda that needs to be addressed,” said Diane Oster, a mom of two kids who lives in Pennsylvania.
“These are the kinds of issues that will have to be solved before any sort of solutions can be made.”
Follow the National Review Online on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest news, commentary, and reviews.