More Money, FEWER Problems
Last week, the Hamilton County Department of Education, PEF, and key community partners and individuals announced the launch of the 75 Jobs campaign. On the cusp of full Common Core State Standards implementation, in one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, the 75 Jobs initiative aims to augment school and community improvement efforts by providing Hamilton County with all the ingredients necessary to maximize production and attraction of educated, civic-minded, skills-rich people.
Diplomas = Dollars
I’ve written before about the relationship between education and economics. I am not a believer in career preparation for the sake of earning more money while pushing aside personal skills, interests, and proclivities. I do believe, however, that we could do a better job of educating the whole student with a part of that holistic education being devoted to a basic understanding of personal finance, specifically related to post-secondary costs compared to future salary expectations. Am I a little bitter that a wise and informed grownup did not step in to explain to me how my projected earnings given different college major choices would jive with the huge amount of student loan debt I was incurring? Maybe, but it is motivating.
Projected Minus Actual
While the details of the 75 Jobs initiative are beyond this particular column’s scope, part of the campaign’s planning required some statistical projections. Specifically, it was imperative that we identify variables on which a school principal could have a reasonable impact. In addition, we needed to link those variables with a financial outcome. We chose the ACT, Inc., EPAS series for our academic variables since almost all students in the state of Tennessee take the Explore, Plan, and ACT tests in grades eight, 10, and 11 and 12, respectively. Also, the ACT series provides college and career readiness benchmarks and standards for each of the tested subjects. We went with potential earnings for our economic indicator. The pairing of the college and career readiness measures with potential earning measures enabled us to estimate economic impact. Aggregate ACT data came from the Hamilton County Department of Education and ACT, Inc., while the potential earnings data and related variables came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
When the eraser dust had settled, the difference in potential earnings of 42,000 Hamilton County students who were or were not academically prepared for college and/or a career was around $620 million. Unemployment rates for college graduates versus unemployment rates for folks with only a high school diploma were 4.9 and 9.4 percent, respectively. Likewise, the median salary for an individual with some college is around $42,000 versus $20,000 for students who have a high school diploma or less.
A Walk Down Hope Street
The 75 Jobs projections were based on general figures to give a sweeping picture of how improving college and career readiness rates could affect the economy. If you are interested in some global and/or individual earning potential figures, visit the Economic Opportunity Index (EOI) on the Hope Street Group site. The Individual tab will allow you to customize variables to get a more specific idea of earning potential. I selected some variables and kept everything constant except education attainment. A student with a high school diploma AND a college degree yielded a $2.62 million EOI, while a student with ONLY a high school diploma came in at $1.91 million. A student without a high school diploma had an EOI of $1.19 million. No postsecondary training leaves almost three quarters of a million dollars on the table, while no high school diploma forgoes almost one and a half million dollars. I urge you to check out the Hope Street Group site and play around with the EOI tool. It is amazing what a huge difference little changes in the variables can make. Also, if you are tremendously interested in what different degree types and levels are likely to earn, you may enjoy reading The College Payoff from researchers at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. Of course, if you read The College Payoff, you will also want to check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics site on which specific salary information is posted.
Put Your Heart Before the Course
The point of entry for the 75 Jobs work is at the principal level, but it is easy to see down the pipeline. High performing principals will create high performing teachers. High performing teachers will create high performing students. High performing students will turn into a high performing workforce. A high performing workforce will directly and indirectly feed the education pipeline, etc. What is most important is the strategic spirit in which the work is done; a collaborative, thoughtful, community-supported plan to improve the lives of all Hamilton County’s students. If you think of each of the 42,000 students as your own, it is likely specifics don’t matter. Whether my daughters become ballerinas, plumbers, sculptors, or surgeons is not nearly as important to me as it is for them to become prepared to run down any path they choose. Seventy-five jobs can make that happen.
Keith White is PEF Chattanooga’s director of research and effectiveness. Feel free to reach out to him by email with any questions, comments or requests. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, notNooga.com or its employees.
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