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New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Frank Bruni recently wrote a poignant piece entitled “The Imperiled Promise of College”. It is another sobering look at the state of education today. Mr. Bruni writes that a college degree which once was nearly a guarantor of success is far from it today. Even though a college education was much more accessible previously than it is now, the promise that college will deliver a graduate into their chosen career is hardly a promise that can be kept. Although college graduates today have an unemployment rate that is half that of those who only have a high school degree, an Associated Press study determined that more than 50% of college graduates under the age of 25 are unemployed or underemployed, meaning they probably didn’t need the degree they secured in college to perform their job. Mr. Bruni goes on to discuss new efforts being developed across high schools to direct more prospective college students into majors that prepare them for careers where jobs are more plentiful and salaries more lucrative.
All of this struck a personal chord for me, but not for the reasons it normally would for someone who might be thinking about the choices their kids may one day make. This time each year, in my role with my JLS Foundation, I prepare to make the toughest decision personally and professionally that I’ll make all year. After spending 12 months getting to know five high school students that all deserve the partial college scholarship we provide, I cast my vote for just one student to receive it. The board members and I take comfort, though, in what all five receive. They all visit New York City for two days and form relationships with people who have achieved great success that provide them with the wisdom they might not otherwise receive…at least not for many years. No one could blame a prospective college student deciding on what career path they should chose to look at the prospects of what that career may deliver for their financial future, and make a huge life decision based on it. Students today are graduating into an economy that I’m glad I didn’t have to face. But, I hope they’ll heed the advice that one of the JLS Foundation speakers preaches each year to those five students as they visit New York. He talks of the importance of being guided into a career by a passion for what you love to do, not by the promise of the riches it may one day deliver. He reveals that it is the discovery of a passion for your chosen field that will lead to great success and elevate you above everyone else who is trying to journey down that same career path. Finding that passion and combining it with your career is the only job security that you’ll ever need.