This is the time of year when high school seniors walk across a stage, get their diplomas and well-deserved applause.
They get something else, too: Lots of advice about what to do next.
Often these pearls of wisdom are grounded in the experiences of those dispensing the advice. While their suggestions can be helpful, young adults should also take a long look at the cold, hard numbers compiled by the Economic Policy Institute.
In 2015, college graduates, on average, earned 56% more than those with a high school diploma – the widest gap since EPI began tracking this data in 1973.
And the Associated Press reported earlier this year, based on research by Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, that the advantages of being a college graduate are growing.
“The number of employed college grads has risen 21% since the recession began in December 2007, while the number of employed people with only a high school degree has dropped nearly 8%,” the AP reported.
In addition, the great majority of high-school graduates who are employed in jobs that pay a “living wage” have obtained some post-high school education or specialized training.
That’s the reality of today’s knowledge- and skills-based economy. Unless you stand out from the crowd, prospects for getting anything other than minimum-wage employment are diminishing by the day.
Fortunately for California’s newest high school graduates our state is heavily invested in their futures. Whether it be at a community college, a California State University campus or the University of California, they can receive the skills and the knowledge to compete successfully in the 21st century global economy.
There they will find teachers, counselors and administrators who will point them in the right direction and support them through whatever challenges arise.
For the doubters, we point to positive developments at Fresno State and the other 22 CSU campuses after it was reported 18 months ago that that only 20 percent of students system wide were graduating in four years.
Following that report, each campus was asked to create its own programs to boost graduation rates. Fresno State responded by upgrading its counseling and tutoring services, adding class sections, making it easier to apply for campus jobs, reducing the cost of summer school for students nearing graduation, providing weekly study sessions for students in difficult classes, and awarding micro grants to students who are on track to graduate but are contemplating dropping out because of financial challenges.
In addition, the university’s Student Cupboard helps students with free food and hygiene products. In the 2016-17 academic year, the cupboard counted 50,052 visits from 5,507 different individuals. Meanwhile, the campus Clothing Closet helped 900 students with free clothes to prepare them for job interviews or internships.
The bottom line is that Fresno State graduated a record 5,648 students this month – a 23 percent increase since 2013. And while the graduation rates for four years (15.5 percent), five years (41.7 percent) and six years (56.5 percent) aren’t where university President Joseph Castro wants them to be, all are heading up. The university’s goal is to have a 70 percent six-year graduation rate by 2025.
In all, 95,000 students will receive CSU diplomas across the state this spring. That’s good news for them – and for California.