Commentary: John A. Tures—Help High School Graduates, Double Scholarships

A few years ago, American children were getting beaten up for making stupid choices about their future.

Whether these preferences are real or fake, my current discussions with high school students reflect bright, mature kids ready to make real contributions in the fields of health, business, and law.

Let’s help them serve our communities by doubling the Pell Grants, something that helps those dream jobs come true.

Before the pandemic, a slew of news reports claimed that polls showed most American kids preferred to be YouTubers or vloggers, compared to Chinese kids who preferred to be astronauts or teachers. A YouTuber claimed to have discovered that 95% of children want similar internet fame. These articles included statements of sadness and woe, crying for America’s future.

But as my research methods students know, we scrutinize soundings as meticulously as biologists dissect dead animals for research. As it turns out, only five options were offered: Astronaut, Teacher, Vlogger/YouTuber, Professional Athlete, and Musician. The teacher was the second choice of children aged 8 to 12 among American children, which is not always mentioned in the articles. Some of these jobs are barely publicized in China, a place where conformity is enforced, and many kids want to please their parents more than their independent-minded American counterparts.

While recruiting for my college, I visited high schools in Georgia and Alabama. I’ve been to college fairs, talked to classrooms and visited canteens, talked with high school students about their future and major and career choices. I attended municipal schools and high schools in the countryside. I spoke to young men and women of all races and ethnicities. And you’ll be happy to know that none of these unscientific polls have been remotely confirmed. In fact, I have yet to meet my first aspiring vlogger or future YouTuber.

Here is what I found. There were many children who wanted to become doctors, nurses, biologists and scientists. Next on the career list were teachers and coaches, and many hoped to do both. Third, there was the law, but not the “go after everybody and get rich” types. Like many of my political science students at LaGrange College, they hope to become prosecutors or legal psychologists. Others hope to be defense attorneys or run legal aid clinics to help the poor.

Is it the pandemic that has changed the game, influencing high school choices? Or is it the fact that students 10 years older than respondents would make more mature study and career choices. Either way, the future looks very bright, not just for these smart kids, but also for the communities they hope to serve.

There were carpenters and cosmologists, and some passed right by our table. Yes, we need those who are learning a trade. But evidence shows that two out of three jobs will require college-level or equivalent experience and training, and that percentage is growing. Yet percentages of Americans with a college degree are less than half that number, which will affect our economy and immigration if this problem is not addressed.

“Many higher education organizations, including the American Council on Education, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, have called for doubling the Pell Grant,” writes Donald E. Heller, Provost of the University. of San Francisco, in The Conversation. “It would be an important step for the Pell Grants to cover as many students today as they did a generation or two ago.”

To give kids a chance to achieve their dreams, help our economy, and fill those college grad positions, let’s find the best way to help them on their way, by doubling the Pell Grants.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. He can be reached at [email protected]

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