This quote, attributed to French philosopher and writer Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), is particularly relevant as promising members of our community make decisions regarding the pursuit of their career choices and the educational opportunities available to them. Their choices will determine the future of our great region.
Many capable people avoid attending college because the navigation of admission, financial aid and degree requirements are often too confusing and overwhelming. To alleviate these barriers, East Georgia State College (EGSC) administrators, staff and students recently completed the college’s 7th annual College Readiness Bus Tour. We spoke with our promising high school students about college choices and listened carefully to students, counselors and principals.
Over eleven days and 1,712 miles traveled, 25 high schools were visited, and 5,361 high school students received resources and advice to navigate a sensible, direct path to post-secondary education, regardless of the college attended. From this multi-perspective message, students can gain an understanding of why a college education can expand opportunities and improve one’s quality of life.
The visits are part of EGSC’s Complete College Georgia campus plan, a statewide effort in collaboration with the University System of Georgia and the Governor’s Office to dramatically increase the number of Georgian’s completing college degrees by 2020, which is critical to Georgia’s economic future to ensure a highly talented workforce.
Jobs exist now that we had never heard of a decade ago. Many future jobs are not invented yet. One estimate suggests that 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that are not on our radar yet. As robotics and artificial intelligence drive change in the workplace, employees must have the high-level thinking skills to do the jobs robots cannot do.
Choosing post-secondary education means that you are likely to earn more money over your lifetime, less likely to be unemployed, less likely to live in poverty and less likely to spend time in prison. The earnings premium for a college degree equates to about $1 million over a lifetime.
East Georgia State College primarily serves a 27 county area in our region of the state, including Appling, Bryan, Bulloch, Burke, Candler, Chatham, Columbia, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, Glascock, Jefferson, Jenkins, Johnson, Laurens, Liberty, Lincoln, Long, McDuffie, Montgomery, Richmond, Screven, Tattnall, Toombs, Treutlen, Warren and Washington. The median household income in the region served is $41,723 compared to $52,997 on the state level. In our region, 21.9% of the population is below the poverty line, compared to 14.9% statewide and 81.4% of our students are high school graduates whereas 86.3% graduate statewide. The greatest disparity is that only 17% of students in our region have a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to the statewide average of 29.9%. (US Census 2018 Quick Facts)
So, where is the disconnect? Why are so many of our fellow community members not choosing to further their education? Several theories have evolved to explain this.
- Students feel they are not smart enough to compete;
- Students have not been encouraged and expected to attend college;
- The lure of the immediate job and paycheck is too inviting;
- Students think they won’t fit in;
- They don’t understand how to choose a college;
- They don’t think they can afford it.
All these reasons are very real to the student, and they must be acknowledged and evaluated in each individual case. The responsibility for this evaluation lies with the student, family, teachers, guidance counselors, college administrators and the community. We are the ones that will help guide the student toward realizing their potential on the educational front.
Most jobs now require education after high school so students should choose a profession that inspires them and then relentlessly pursue the type of education needed for success, whether it is an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree. Once that important decision is made, the college can direct and navigate them on their path. There is a wide range of public and private post-secondary institutions in our region to choose from, including state colleges, technical colleges, comprehensive universities and research universities. These institutions are now partnering in creative ways to increase expectations about post-secondary education and increase the rate at which members of our community make that important choice.
East Georgia State College opened its doors in 1973 as Emanuel County Junior College. The community believed strongly enough in the power of education that a bond was issued and the county taxed themselves to make sure a college education was available to students within a 60-mile radius.
Choosing post-secondary education is not a one time take it or leave it choice made at the time of high school graduation. In our rapidly changing world, it is a choice each one of us should make throughout our lifetime as our working world changes. This summer, we are going back to the basics and opening our doors a little wider to high school students and graduates, veterans and working adults. We hope you will choose education, wherever it may be. Remember, college is knowledge and knowledge is power. You won’t regret your decision