The Green New Deal And Education

The Green New Deal proposes “Providing resources, training, and high-quality education, including higher education, to all people of the United States.”

At present there are about 5,300 universities and colleges in the U.S. In addition, there are about 1,132 community colleges and 8,063 trade or vocational schools. There are a bit more than 28,348,600 people aged 19-25 in the United States.

There are 16.9 million students enrolled in trade or vocational schools, 10.8 million in colleges or universities and 6.1 million in two-year or community colleges, for a total of 33.8 million students, a testament to the growing popularity of going back and getting that degree after some work experience.

Just under 70% of high school graduates enroll in higher education (and 16% of high school students don’t graduate). In numbers, there are about 3.6 million graduates each year and about 1.2 million dropouts (not all dropouts are seniors). About half of the dropouts will find their way back to some sort of tertiary education.

College enrollment totals have declined for six straight years. But most of that decline is from fewer adult and/or part-time students. Because of declining birth rates, college enrollment is expected to decline by 15% between 2026 and 2030. Declines are already evident in small, expensive liberal arts schools, some of which are closing, and for-profit schools. And 84% of community colleges have declining enrollment. Enrollment has been declining in community colleges since 2011.

So if the Green New Deal wants to make education available to all, it should not be overly difficult. There are more empty seats to fill and a manageable number of candidates to cajole into filling them.

The average cost of a year’s tuition and fees at a community college is $3,347. If we as a country instituted a remedial education program at community colleges oriented towards those who had dropped out and just forgot to charge the fees, higher education would be available to all. If we offered scholarships to trade schools, those who really, really don’t like conventional academia would have an alternative.

$3,347 in tuition assistance times 1.2 million dropouts comes to a tad over $4 billion a year. That’s our Green New Deal recommendation. But we don’t want to stop there.

We could use choice architecture as added persuasion to get people into school–offering guaranteed jobs, housing assistance, heck–free tickets to concerts. Because we don’t want to compel people to go to school past the age of 18. Well, we can’t–they’re adults. But what we want to do is make it such a no-brainer that almost all will exercise the option. That’s called a Nudge.


5 thoughts on “The Green New Deal And Education”

  1. I will be away from the net for a few days. I will respond st length when I get back.
    I’ve taught high school, community college and university off and on from 1970 to 2010 with a long hiatus after a serial suicide at one of the schools.
    Schools have money. It’s mispent. Too much time and money is spent on non education. Prospective teachers should do something else before they study education.


  2. What would you train dropouts to do in community college? Wouldn’t it be better to have quality vocational education in secondary schools? “Remedial” means teaching the same thing that was already offered- spending twice for the same thing.
    Which reminds me, a constant refrain in climate action plans is that renewables are a jobs generating policy- installing windmills, solar panels etc. One useful thing would be to look at enrollment and graduate job placement stats for these programs at community colleges. Rather than remedial math and history, this could be better.


    1. I’ve taught at 4 community colleges. Three had programs which prepared students for occupations like nondestructive testing, nuclear plant operater, etc. The training was so specific that the grads were obsolete a few years after graduayion.


      1. If they were working as nuclear plant operators for a few years after graduation then their skills weren’t any more out of date than the other operators when new training was needed. I assume plants didn’t suddenly introduce new operator requirements without training their existing staff.


  3. This was over 20 years ago. My best memory was that someone decided that they needed better training and looked elswhere. Some of the grads were excellent, they were the first to go. Some should have never been in the program.


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