The current Apple ad campaign reveals much about the country’s evolving workforce. “Designed by Apple in California,” it goes. The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University recently put the message directly, projecting that by the end of the decade, 64 percent of Ohio jobs will require at least some college education. Workers in this country increasingly will perform tasks requiring higher skills.
Know, as the Georgetown center pointed out, that in the 1970s, 70 percent of jobs called for a high school degree or less. When Mayor Don Plusquellic talks about a local college scholarship plan, he has just such change in mind. College has become all but mandatory.
What are we doing to ease the way into higher education, especially in relieving the crushing debt so many students face as they pursue a better life?
At the Statehouse, Gov. John Kasich and his fellow Republicans in charge of the legislature have highlighted the advances in higher education in the new state budget. They deserve credit for building further on the idea of linking public funding to graduation rates. They rightly have launched an effort to bring coherence to the scattered programs for work-force training.
What they haven’t done is confront squarely the cost problem, beyond a 2 percent tuition cap. No question, colleges and universities must get more efficient. But that hardly is the sole answer. State leaders must begin to think differently.
Look at Oregon, where lawmakers have approved a plan to start allowing students to attend college without paying tuition or taking loans. Students would commit a portion of their future earnings to repaying the state (the share linked to what they earn). Difficult details still are to come. Yet Republicans and Democrats support the idea. They seem to grasp the imperative of truly making higher education more accessible and affordable.