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Not going further a mistake

June 06, 2006

The recently released 2006 "Report Card" from the Maryland Department of Education indicates that in one vital area, Washington County's performance should be marked "needs improvement."

The report said that of the 1,258 students who graduated in 2005, fewer than half said they were going to college. Statewide, the average was 63 percent.

OK, that information is a year old and in the past 12 months, the school system has pushed hard to emphasize the need for training after high school.

But let us suggest that someone outside the school system should be telling students what they will miss if they don't go on to college or get advanced technical training.

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In 2004, the College Board, a nonprofit organization that runs the SAT exams and the Advanced Placement (AP) Program, published "Education Pays: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society."

Using data from the Census Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service, the report said that in 2003, full-time U.S. workers with a four-year degree or its equivalent earned $49,900.

That's 62 percent more than $30,800, which is what a full-time U.S. worker with a high-school degree earned in 2003.

Then the report followed with some good news/bad news facts. Although there is a widening gap between the earnings of college-educated workers and those with only a high-school diploma, when the percentage of college-educated workers in a city increases, so do everyone's wages, regardless of education levels.

That's probably why the 2000 census showed Frederick County's median income was $60,276 as opposed to Washington County's $40,617. Just 14.6 percent of Washington County residents had four-year degrees in 2000, about half what the percentage was in Frederick County.

The College Board report also notes that those with four-year degrees are less likely to become unemployed and more likely to have health insurance as a job benefit.

The bottom line: In 2006, a four-year college degree or its equivalent is not a luxury, but a necessity. The sooner students are told what it takes to survive today, the better off they will be.

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