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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Leaving college for a factory job gave me dignity, security and opportunity

The U.S. Supreme Court is about to rule on whether President Joe Biden has the authority to forgive up to $20,000 in student loans by executive order. The cost to taxpayers would be $400 billion, estimates the Congressional Budget Office.


"Free college" won't improve upward mobility, writes Skyler Adleta, a Cincinnati electrician, in a Newsweek commentary. It will widen the class divide.


At 18, living in his car, he tried college, with help from a Pell grant. Teachers had told him that he needed a degree to achieve the American Dream.


But he dropped out to take a factory job, and began his escape from poverty. The work gave him "dignity and security," Adleta writes. "Within two years, I was able to get married, buy a home, and support my wife through her last two years of school."


However, the factory didn't promote anyone beyond equipment operator without a degree. So Adleta went into construction. "Halfway through an electrical apprenticeship, the education for which was paid for by my employer, I was promoted to project manager."


Industries need to stop requiring college degrees for positions that can be learned on the job, he argues. "As of 2022, 62 percent of employers require a degree for all entry-level positions," Adleta writes. "Meanwhile, just one third of Americans have a four-year degree."


A growing number of states are opening up government jobs to workers without a degree, reports Rachel M. Cohen on Vox. Degree inflation is costly when labor is in short supply.


Dismissed by Degrees, a 2017 Harvard Business School study "found more than 60 percent of employers rejected otherwise qualified candidates in terms of skills or experience simply because they did not have a college diploma," she writes. Millions of job postings require college degrees for jobs that are currently held by non-graduates, the researchers found. "The report pointed to employer surveys that showed workers without college degrees were often considered just as productive on the job as their college-educated counterparts."

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