Want to reduce college costs? High schools can help.
When politicians discuss the crisis of higher education, they tend to focus on finding ways to reduce the price that students pay for college: tax-deductible savings accounts, better known as 529s; massive student debt cancellation, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren has proposed; free college, one of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ key talking points. All those plans presume that cost is the central barrier to college access — and admittedly, in far too many cases, it is.
But when I served as Mayor of Chicago, I discovered that focusing exclusively on student debt is the wrong approach — it attacks the problem at the wrong time and in the wrong place. We live in an age when a high school diploma is no longer sufficient for those looking to earn a middle-class living — almost every student needs something more. If we really want to broaden the gateway into higher education, we need to focus more directly on what comes before that, specifically, what students learn in the final two years of high school.