The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Christina E. Whitfield (Vice-Chancellor for Research and Analysis at Kentucky Community and Technical College System) is urging students to consider careers that pay less but make meaningful contributions to society, like emergency medical technicians or child care workers. She reminds us that income is not “the most valuable way to measure outcomes” in all cases.
Whitfield is certainly swimming against the current. Young people with student debt to repay (average is about $35,000) are putting off marriage, parenthood, home ownership — reshaping not only their own lives, but those of aging parents who worry they don’t have another two decades to wait until their adult offspring is financially settled. The ripples of debt-saddled young people expand well beyond their families, as well. Many are skipping over helping professions – teaching, social work, nonprofit administration—in favor of higher paying jobs in technology or banking. When we begin to see a shortage of teachers and nurses in 2018 or so, look directly to student loan debt as one of the causes. It is easy to make that call to child care as meaningful work in the world (one of the professions Whitfield mentions) but harder for that call to be realized in the current financial landscape.