April 4, 2022 – Future of Work

EdSurge: College is just one path learners can take to fulfill dreams


Are we raising children in a culture where dreams are “a luxury—nice to have, but hard to afford”? According to EdSurge editor Rebecca Koenig, we are. And it’s because we send young learners the message that a four-year degree is the only path to fulfillment.

In a recent article, Koenig cited a 2021 Charles Koch Foundation-SkillUp Coalition survey that asked people what they consider the most important result of education. Of those aged 18 to 24, while 30 percent said a job or career was the ultimate goal, 70 percent gave a different answer. That number included:

  • 21 percent who said the goal is to learn what one is good at and passionate about;
  • 15 percent who said the goal is to become a better person in general; and 
  • 14 percent who said the goal is to become a critical thinker.

That survey also found that, of the broad group of people who feel they will need to need to acquire new skills to advance their careers, 72 percent want an option other than a four-year college or university to do so. And it found many Americans would recommend young learners pursue paths other than a four-year degree to attain their career goals. In fact, the same number (19 percent) said they would recommend certificates, badges, and microcredentials as would recommend a four-year college degree. 

“The false choice between personal growth or a decent paycheck isn’t serving young people well,” Koenig concluded. “Their ambitions demand that adults reduce barriers to higher education in the long-term and create an array of other options in the short-term that speak deeply to young people’s values, genuinely serve their best interests and help them get to college eventually if that’s where they want to go.”

Read Koenig’s full article. Find our survey here.