High school students tend to fall into two distinct categories when they reach their junior and senior years: those who take college prep very seriously and those who cannot afford it. While it can be a problem when students get too obsessed with college prep, it is that the other category where public policy people should turn their attention.
What happens when a student knows that he or she is not going to college? Whether a student has no interest in college or they cannot afford it, we need academic programs to prepare them for the world after school.
Some educational nonprofits have sprouted up that focus on opportunities other than college for
students, and this is good because the last thing a school wants is a student with no direction or plan...or hope.
A nonprofit called The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NTFE) works with schools to develop programs that teach entrepreneurship to students that may not be headed to a university.
None of this guarantees results, but at the very least students with limited means and limited backgrounds get a rudimentary understanding of the economy, and they will be prepared to participate in that economy regardless of how successful they might be.
Do students need to learn how to save money and invest it? Absolutely.
The American rate of personal savings used to hover at around 10 percent until the early 1980s. After 1982, the rate of savings in America dropped until it hit rock bottom at 2 percent in 2007. What changed in the 1980s?
History tells us that the main earners in our economy before the 1980s belonged to the World War II/Great Depression generation. They saved money.
The baby boomers entered the work force in full around the late 1970s and early 1980s. The value of saving money lost ground to the allure of easy credit for many people.
Think of the bills that came into the house of an average American before 1980. There was a gas bill, mortgage or rent, a phone bill, and an electric bill. Think of the bills we have today: all of the aforementioned, plus internet, cable, credit cards, interest on credit cards, data packages, Netflix, etc.
Okay, some of these things keep the economy going, so we are patriots in some sense, but why not teach students about budgeting and investing? If they are not headed to college, they are going to need all the help they can get, and this is the help they will need.
A good business education should not be solely for the wealthy or privileged.
The savings rate in the United States has climbed a little since the economy crashed because people are being more cautious, and they are less inclined to invest in risky projects. Teaching the value of money has not always been welcome with open arms in some communities.
Parents and schools can see this as condescending, but perhaps in these economic times it is right to re-introduce programs that teach entrepreneurship. Many students in Queens, Brooklyn, and The Bronx might be of limited economic means, but there is also a bevy of creativity there as well.
Economic education might be a great new direction for troubled public schools, if we can get people to teach it. By teaching financial responsibility, students will feel connected to the economy and not victimized by it.