The NEA family includes the full spectrum of educators, and no matter where we are or what we do, we share a goal: exposing students to every opportunity to discover all they are capable of achieving.
With that in mind, delegates to the 2018 NEA Representative Assembly designated October as National Higher Education Month. This month is about encouraging K-12 students to aim for higher education, strengthening bridges between educators, and taking stock of what we have in common.
By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school. If current educational attainment trends hold, however, our nation will be short of 5 million people who fit that bill.
In addition, college graduates earn about $25,000 more per year on average than high school graduates. That adds up to about a million dollars over a lifetime.
Those are two excellent reasons why students should view high school graduation not as the end of formal education, but as the start of a new phase of it.
This month, we are encouraging K-12 educators and higher education faculty and staff to work together to arrange for students of all ages to visit campuses. We’ve even created a downloadable and printable “Certificate of Encouragement in Your Pursuit of Higher Education” for students who participate in campus field trips.
If you can’t take students on visits this month, don’t give up. Just put it on the schedule for later in the school year. (In need of tips for creating successful field trips? Look here.)
Students who go on field trips have better grades and graduation rates, studies show. Taking a trip to a nearby campus has particular benefits for at-risk students because it topples their assumption that college is only for “certain people.”
The first step for K-12 educators is to find an NEA Higher Education bargaining unit in your area. You’ll find that, just as in K-12, our higher ed members work in a wide variety of professions. They are full- and part-time faculty members, administrators, career counselors, and more.
And I don’t have to remind you that these days, there are many reasons to reach out if you’re in higher ed. Only six states have returned funding for higher education to pre-recession levels; in 19 states, funding for higher ed is at least 20 percent less than it was in the early 2000s. With the support of your K-12 colleagues, you can advocate together for the vital resources you need to set students off toward a great future.
I also don’t need to remind our faculty and staff members that these days, there are also many reasons to get involved in your union. The number of contingent faculty members has increased and at the same time, there’s been a decrease in job security, shared governance, and academic freedom. On top of that, there’s been a rise in the corporate model of higher education that treats you less like educators and more like customer-service providers. All this makes it necessary for you to find your voice.
As NEA Higher Ed members, you can advocate for the pay, benefits, and working conditions you deserve—and the services that your students need.
You can also help advocate for important legislation, including the Aim Higher Act, a bill in Congress that would ensure students of a debt-free path to a college degree or credential.
We’re all in this amazing profession together, and National Higher Education Month gives us a reason to celebrate one group in particular: the dedicated, talented people who work on college and university campuses. Thank you for all you do!