The amount of tuition required to attend a four-year collegiate institution no longer squares with the opportunity it provides, says Robert Reich, former labor secretary to President Clinton and one of today's leading labor rights advocates. While previous generations could be confident that earning a college degree was their ticket to the middle class, this is no longer true. Along with a diploma, today's graduates carry with them tens of thousands of dollars in debt; there are fewer job prospects for them so they accept a job for which their degree wasn't necessary to land.

Technical training, which requires less time and less expense, is more important to our economy than four-year degrees, says Reich. And we already have institutions which specialize in providing it: community colleges. 

"Community colleges are great bargains. They avoid the fancy amenities four-year liberal arts colleges need in order to lure the children of the middle class. Even so, community colleges are being systematically starved of funds."

Reich says American businesses should become more involved with community colleges, working with administrators to design curriculums that are adaptive to today's quick-changing professional landscape. And by combining the last year of high school with the kind of technical training provided at community colleges, we can give our middle class a fighting chance. 

After high school, American culture offers a false choice, says Jeff Livingston of McGraw-Hill Education, of either attending Harvard or working at McDonalds. What's needed is more focus on middle-skill careers, as he explains his Big Think interview:

Read more at Salon

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