In the first three parts of this series, we explored education and training and what people need to know or master when they emerge into society. We also examined the five “Ws” of education and training to include the accelerating expansion of knowledge and even increasing demand for mental facility and skills needed to successfully assimilate into society. And then we considered the cost to become “qualified” for something that allows the individual to lead a satisfying, controlled and rewarding life. But the costs seem, actually are, enormous.
For Kindergarten through the twelfth grade the government spends an average of $12,900 per year per student. Parents also contribute on the order of $5,500 per year (the figure for a college student living off campus with family), meaning the cost of education through high school is about $239.000. But the new high school graduate has no student debt and can get a job averaging $718 per week. But is high school all you need?
Just as the perception for schooling need has grown from 1900 to today, the level of schooling has grown. You need education and training beyond high school to improve your chances for even modest success. But you must pay at least for some of it. Obviously the government is still paying for some of it through state colleges and universities as well as community colleges. Yet the student must pay a large portion of the cost, resulting in student loans. Without challenging the K-12 system, how can we create a post K-12 education and training system that lets the student become qualified for greater achievement, without school debt, and a little cash in the piggy bank (OK, a real bank) on matriculation?
From my perspective there are three broad entities involved in education and training, usually essentially separate: education institutions that charge a fee, businesses that use educational achievement as a signal of potential candidate trainability, and the overly complex entity called government. How can these entities work together to create a system(s) allowing higher education where the student is debt free when he or she matriculates and perhaps has an appropriate job?
Consider a scenario where the student earns income from the institution for performing work using the skills and knowledge to learned in his or her “major.” The student starts to work upon entry into school, college, university, training institution, or whatever in the field of study. At the end of two years, the student has essentially completed his or her major and is fully employable while, hopefully, continuing on to complete a bachelor’s degree or can leave with an associate’s degree or other signally credential. Also, while in school, the student resides in student housing and receives three meals a day. Can it be done? It is done, almost, but the upfront major needs more development.
An institution such as this is providing labor for a specific area of endeavor. It is doing jobs or work for others for which it receives revenues that, in turn, pays the student. This covers tuition and fees, subsistence, clothing, student overhead, and some entertainment. And when the student graduates, a job is waiting, perhaps a commitment.
Is there such a system and does it work? There is and it does. In 1802, the United States Military Academy was established at West Point, New York. There are other service academies, similar operationally but focused on other service domains. When an individual is accepted as a cadet or midshipman, he or she receives a four year education leading to a bachelor’s degree, room and board, and a salary equal to one third of a new second lieutenant or ensign.
The government essentially acts as a business entity providing business (military) training while an internal educational component (a college) provides the education. As a business, the cadets and midshipmen are employed in various “labor” enterprises. At the lower end, they march in parades providing entertainment for the grand American public and others. They also assist in the training of other cadets and midshipmen teaching skill and instilling values and, should the need arise, they are deployable. When they graduate, they do have a five year commitment, but it is not a college loan.
While cadets and midshipmen, they receive a salary of a little over $900 per month. This covers the cost of clothing (uniforms) and school supplies, and spending money deposited into their checking accounts. It is great for the student if he or she desires a military career or, at least, is satisfied with a five year commitment in a hazardous occupation. The question becomes can this be done in other fields?
At LAWFI we have been looking at the concept of a Los Alamos Cyber Academy in which the student is a cyber security apprentice. The Academy becomes a business entity providing employment for the student while partnering with colleges for the educational component with a “major” first. Other aspects include room and board, managing student assets, and finding work opportunities. It does require more study to determine if it can be done.
While this is conceptual, the larger question is what other fields and intellectual domains are appropriate for such a concept? Can our educational and training systems evolve into a system that graduates people with more opportunity, and enthusiastic view of the future, and some cash in the pocket rather than debt?