Earlier this month, the Vice President’s Middle Class Task Force held a town hall meeting on college affordability and accessibility at Syracuse University. During the Q&A portion of the meeting, a business representative from a local carpenters union brought up “vocational” training and apprenticeships. His point was that in the broad national discussion of college, we must not forget about technical training as an option for postsecondary education.
Secretary Duncan responded by giving his interpretation of postsecondary: something beyond high school. This includes 4 year universities, 2 year community colleges, a trade, or “vocational-technical” training. While the Secretary did not use the term CTE, and opted instead for “vocational,” it seemed from the context that he was talking about what is being done in CTE programs every day: “As a country, we need to prepare a lot more students to be successful in careers, a lot more students to be successful in college. When talking about college ready, career ready, we’re really trying to do both.” He said that in the 1960s this country did a good job of preparing students in “vocational-technical” training, but that we lost our way over the last few decades in terms of getting students to think about careers.
In conjunction with that town hall meeting, the Taskforce released a staff report addressing the barriers to higher education. The report found that some of the biggest obstacles to postsecondary access and completion are socioeconomic status, lack of information (related to opportunities and financial aid), and student loan debt. It should be noted that the Taskforce defines “college degree” as including certificates and two-year degrees. You can read a copy of the report here.