Today, that wisdom has been proven true — yet again.
In some ways, the Great Recession didn’t discriminate. Job losses and wage reductions in the United States were so severe, and so widespread, that people of varying degrees of workplace experience, earning potential and education were adversely affected.
But trends did emerge. More men lost their jobs than women. More manufacturing, blue-collar and low-wage jobs were lost than white-collar jobs. And now, thanks to a new Georgetown University study, we know how much the recession pummeled those who had only a high-school diploma or less, The New York Times reported Thursday.
Three facts are pertinent:
n The number of Americans with no more than a high-school diploma who had jobs dropped 10 percent between September 2007 and early 2012.
n The number of Americans with some college education was reduced but has “almost completely reversed” by early this year.
n The number of Americans with college degrees and who have jobs has increased by 5 percent during the slow recovery of the U.S. economy.
Additionally, The Times reported, the number of Americans with bachelor’s degrees who have jobs did not decline during the recession.
Guess that conventional wisdom is correct. Statistically speaking, a college degree remains one of the top indicators of a person’s economic stability — during times lean and times prosperous.
These findings should make Alabama lawmakers and educators shudder. At the (unspoken) heart of the Georgetown study is the availability and affordability of a college education. Without it, the data prove, modern-day workers are at the mercy of the ebbs and flows of the economy. With it, their chances drastically improve.
That puts Alabamians in a pickle since the state ranks poorly for the affordability of a college education, a sorrowful fact only worsened by the annual tuition increases installed by trustee boards at virtually all of the state’s colleges and universities.
It is the Alabama version of a dog chasing its tail: state appropriations for higher education are slashed; trustee boards recoup those losses by charging more for tuition; fewer students can afford the cost of a degree; and more students emerge from college saddled with thousands upon thousands of dollars of student-loan debt.
The result is foul. Though enrollment at Alabama colleges is strong, the exorbitant price is a barrier to those looking to gain a stronger foothold for the future. And as the Georgetown study illustrates, those without a college degree are the first to suffer when the economy sours.
As Montgomery cuts and slices its way through the state budgets, it should take a moment and ponder the plight of those for whom a college degree is but a dream. When they suffer, the state suffers, too.