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Reprinted From Inside Business, September/October 2011

One of the best predictors of long-term prosperity and growth for our region is educational attainment. An education that ends in high school is no longer enough.

College brings higher pay: $1,053 a week for the median bachelor’s degree holder last year, versus $638 for a high school graduate with no college, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last year’s unemployment rate was 4.9% for college grads versus 9.4% for those with no college (Wall Street Journal – 5/4/2012).

As a community, it is imperative that we raise the expectations of our young people and send them clear, consistent messages about educational achievement after high school graduation. But that won’t be easy, especially in predominantly poor or blue-collar communities where college, or more broadly, post-secondary education, has not been the norm. How do we help parents who didn’t go beyond high school graduation understand why it matters and how to support their children? What kind of school and community supports are necessary to help kids prepare for post-secondary education – beginning at birth and extending through the time they’re on campus?

According to a study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2018, 62% of all jobs will require a college education, and more than half will call for at least a bachelor’s degree, says Banjac.

A first generation college student often has a tougher time earning a college degree than one who comes from a family with college-educated parents, explains Banjac, who has a Ph.D. in education and is the first in her family to earn a college degree. The reasons are varied: the family may lack the background to provide the support system needed; or they may not value education as much.