Maximizing Educational ROI in Florida

Here's a quick excerpt from an article in the Miami Herald and my take on it. With tuition and debt rising, vocational education must be a higher priority in Florida.

Excerpt: As tuition rates and debt levels continue to rise, Florida colleges and universities need to place a greater emphasis on providing learning opportunities outside the classroom for students to prepare them for a competitive job market. 

That was the primary takeaway from the latest survey of the Florida Influencers, a group of the state’s leading voices. Asked to rank a variety of proposals to improve higher education in Florida, a plurality (44 percent) said increasing post-secondary vocational training should be the top priority for state officials. 

“Our expensive educational system keeps producing more college graduates with thousands of dollars in student loans while ignoring a growing need in the business community for skilled, vocational education graduates,” said Brian Keeley, the president and CEO of Baptist Health South Florida.

Bottom Line: One of the most consistent messages I shared during the recession was to major in what you wanted a career in and to use education for very specific purposes. I argued that college had become too expensive to simply get a degree and try to figure it out afterward. At one point ten years ago, more than 50% of college grads never worked in a career that was related to their degree. Ten years later, with the increased costs of college education combined with shortages of skilled professionals in many of the trades, especially in Florida, it’s even more important to place emphasis on a career path and use education accordingly.  

Here are five different professions/degree fields: 

  • Attorney, Business degree, Electrician, Liberal Arts degree, and Metalworker.

Here are five different average starting salaries for those fields: $44k, $46k, $50k, $54k, $57k.

You’ll notice that the range is only $13,000 between those categories but the cost of the education is vastly different. For example, the average cost to become an attorney is $189,000. While the average cost to become an electrician is $5,000.

Now here’s the starting salaries matched up to those fields: 

  • Liberal Arts degree: $44,000 
  • Metalworker: $46,000 
  • Business degree: $50,000 
  • Electrician: $54,000 
  • Attorney: $57,000

The electrician earns more than all fields but the attorney while having a cost of education that’s nearly $50,000 cheaper than the degree fields and they’re able to begin their careers years earlier than liberal arts and business degree recipients. It’s just an example to illustrate a point but it’s one that’s increasingly important. 

Photo by: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

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