“Everyone doesn’t need to go to college” has long been the cry of conservatives who decry the rising cost of colleges and financial aid. Why don’t they just get jobs? Surely we can’t afford all of these liberal arts majors anyway.

Maybe, but how difficult is it to get a job, really? The trouble is that it turns out it’s actually pretty hard to get started in work right out of high school. In fact, it’s almost impossible to get a full-time job out of high school without some form of college. According to an article by Pamela Ferrara in Salem, Oregon’s Statesman Journal:

New research is demonstrating how much more difficult it is for many youths to get a start today in the world of work than it was 30 years ago.

Earning good wages today requires specific job skills and/or education. Youths with only a high school diploma and few if any job skills are paying the price by earning low wages, and these wages have fallen over time.

Even employers who hire people with only a college education are reluctant to hire teenagers because they don’t think they have the work-ethnic they need to be reliable. The article suggests that kids who aren’t going to colleges would benefit from “making early connections to the world of work.” The administration should consider this when making revisions to No Child Left Behind to make high school about getting students ready for college and work. Right now no one quite seems to know what “career ready” means.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer