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It’s All About Education: Failure to Launch - It’s Not Just a Movie

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

 

Lauri Lee

There has been a lot of buzz recently about “Failure to Launch” syndrome, a term coined to describe young adults who are still dependent on their parents, often unable to hold down a job or move out on their own. Many have completed college, but seem to be either unmotivated or unsure of how to establish themselves as independent people.  As a result of the growing interest in this phenomenon, special programs are popping up to support parents as they try to encourage their adult children to move on: for example, the Optimum Performance Institute offers a transitional living program in Woodland Hills, California. The program includes intensive counseling and life coaching to all participants. Heron’s Gate, a program in Columbia, Maryland, offers similar services to families on an outpatient basis; young people continue to live at home while attending the program. 

The Pew Research Center found that a record number of young adults were living with their parents in 2012, with 36% of all 18 – 31 year olds still at home. If we narrow that age range to 18 to 24 year olds, more than 56% were still residing with their parents. Today, 16% of all 25 to 34 year olds still can’t seem to strike out on their own. A working paper from the Federal Reserve Board found that rising debt – increasing loan balances, low credit scores, and account delinquency – increases the amount of time that young adults continue to live with their parents.  The debt carried by college graduates has increased every year, with over 70% of the Class of 2014 owing an average of $33,000. This rise has affected the housing market; young adults with student debt are less likely to pursue home ownership, and the United States has the smallest percentage of 30 year olds with mortgages in a decade. NBC News suggested that rising debt may also be contributing to a delay in marriage; the median age of marriage has risen from 20 for women and 23 for men in 1960 to 27 for women and 29 for men today. 

Earlier this year, I wrote about the rising costs of college and ways to help alleviate those costs. But there are other alternatives, as well. Most people seem to agree that high school graduates need time to mature and learn about themselves and the world before entering the workforce, and almost everyone believes that further education after high school is a necessity in today’s global economy. Today, the widely accepted way for high school graduates to gain this maturity and experience is for them to attend college and receive either a two-year or a four-year degree. Suppose there were other options? 

In Germany, almost 60% of young people train in apprenticeships, in trades like manufacturing, information technology, banking and hospitality. In fact, there is an extensive network called EuroApprenticeship, designed to promote, implement and enhance learning mobility for apprentices aged 16 to 26 throughout Europe, with more than 28 member countries. Successful completion of an apprenticeship program generally takes 2 – 3 years. In the United Kingdom, students can search the government website for assistance in finding job training and apprenticeship opportunities, in addition to higher education and loan programs. Here in the US, fewer than 5% of young people train as apprentices, most in the construction trades. 

Some high school students may not feel ready to pursue further education immediately after graduation, but there are few other options available to them. Many boarding schools offer a postgraduate or PG year, and some students choose to travel during a “gap year,” but both of these options can be quite expensive. What if we had more programs offering real-world experience through a yearlong service program, like City Year or AmeriCorps? Today, only about 80,000 young people participate in these programs each year (in fact, City Year turns away three out of four applicants). Perhaps instead of funding two years of community college for all students, as President Obama has proposed, our government should expand programs that offer job training, hands-on experience, and life skills. 

Currently, the American education system is not doing a great job of preparing all of our students to enter the workforce. College graduates still earn, on average, 98% more per hour than people without degrees, so many students feel justified in taking out loans to finance college. However, if those students are unsure of their interests or their goals, they increase their likelihood of dropping out, transferring or switching majors (both of which can result in more time spent in school acquiring that degree), or graduating with a degree that may not translate well to a career. We can do better by providing more career and college counseling to high school students and by expanding our definition of “higher education” to include alternatives to college. Perhaps “failure to launch” has more to do with the launch pad than with the rockets themselves.  

Lauri Lee is an independent consultant with over twenty years of experience in both public and private education, with learners from infants through adults. With experience in teaching, marketing, communications, social media, development, admissions, and technology, she is able to synthesize many of the issues facing our educational system today. She lives in Providence, RI with her family, a big dog, and a small cat. She blogs at http://www.AllAboutEducation.net and you can follow her on Twitter at @fridovichlee. 

 

Related Slideshow: RI Experts on the Biggest Issues Facing Public Education

On Friday November 22, the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University, the Latino Policy Institute of Roger Williams University, the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, the Providence Student Union, and RI-CAN: Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now will host Rhode Island leaders in the public and nonprofit sectors for a symposium on "the civil rights issue of the 21st century, adequacy and equity and the State of Education in Rhode Island."

Weighing in on the the "three biggest factors" facing education in the state today are symposium participatnts Gary Sasse, Founding Director of the Hassenfeld Institute for Leadership; Christine Lopes Metcalfe, Executive Director of RI-CAN; Anna Cano-Morales, Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, Central Falls Public Schools and Director, Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University; Tim Duffy, Executive Director, RI Association of School Committees; and Deborah Cylke, Superintendent of Pawtucket Public Schools.  

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Sasse

"Provide a state constitutional guarantee that all children will have access to  an education that will prepare them to meet high performance standards and be successful adults.

Bridge the gap between the educational achievement of majority and minority students.  This will require the implementation of a comprehensive agenda for quality education in Rhode Island’s inner cities."

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Sasse

"Revisit school governance and clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the state, school districts , neighborhood schools, and school teachers and school administrators.  Develop and implement a system to hold schools responsible for student outcomes."

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Sasse

"Build a consensus and buy in of all stakeholders around  the education reform initiatives being advanced by the Board of Education."

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Metcalfe

"Set high expectations and raise our standards across the state for anyone that contributes to the success of our students. From adopting the Common Core to discussing rigorous teacher evaluations, conversations around creating a culture of high expectations have to be at the center of the work."

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Metcalfe

"Expand opportunities and start earlier - we must ensure that all kids have access to a high performing public school of their choice, which includes full-day kindergarten."

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Metcalfe

"School facilities - with an aging infrastructure, underutilized buildings and the need to provide fair funding for school facilities for all public school students regardless of the public school they attend, this needs to be a top issue tackled by the RI General Assembly in 2014."

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Cano-Morales

"Meet the academic potential of all students but especially with regards to urban schools students -- 3 out of 4 are Latinos in Providence, Central Falls, and Pawtucket." 

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Cano-Morales

"Connect through specific best practices the academic successes of our students to careers jobs. Investing in schools is economic development as a whole for Rhode Island. " 

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Cano-Morales

"Increase the access to -- and completion of -- higher education and post- secondary opportunities.  Poverty? Struggling families? Education and access to careers and competitive wages is the best antidote."

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Duffy

"Providing adequate funding is critical -- and there are going to be pressures on the state budget, which mean stresses to meet the education funding formula.  With the predictions of the state's projected loss of revenue with the casinos in MA, education funding could be on the cutting board, and we need to ensure that it's not.  Do we need to look at strengthening the language of the constitution to guarantee funding?"

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Duffy

"Implementing the common core standards will provide continuity -- and comparison -- between states now.  With over 40 states involved, we're embarking a new set of standards here."

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Duffy

"Accountability and assessing student performance -- how that it's driven by the common core, we'll be able to compare the best districts in RI against the best districts in say MA.  That's the intent of the Common Core is a standardization of how we hold the system accountable."

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Cylke

"Issue one is quality.  Your quality of education should not be dependent on your zip code.  And the reality is, certain cities are distressed, or whose property values are not as high, I know each town has a different capacity to fund education. There's an absolute, clear relationship between the quality of public schools, and economic development of states. There's irrefutable evidence that quality public schools can make states more competitive."

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Cylke

"Issue two is equality.  In West Warwick and Providence, the per pupil spending is around $16K.  In Pawtucket it's $12.9.  What's wrong with that picture? If I'm in charge of overseeing that my students are college ready, they need to be adequate funding.  A difference of $3000 per pupil?  We're talking in the tens of millions of dollars -- more like $25 million in this case.  An exemplary school district is Montgomery County, MD -- they have roughly the same number of students, around 145,000 -- there's one funding figure per pupil. There's equitable funding for all kids."

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Cylke

"Issue three is Infrastructure.  A critical issue is whether the state is going to lift its moratorium in 2014 for renovations for older schools, ore new construction.  If that moratorium is not lifted, and those funds are not available, it is critical to us here in Pawtucket. The average of my schools is 66 years, I've got 3 that celebrate 100 years this year. These old schools have good bones, but they need to be maintained.  These are assets -- and this is all interrelated with the funding formula."

 
 

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