Pioneer Press: Work together to bring down the cost of education, prepare students for good jobs
TOPICS: In the News
By Angie Craig for the Pioneer Press
My mom spent nine years working to get her teaching degree. We lived in mobile home courts for most of my childhood. My grandmother lived a few doors down and helped raise us. She worked at a shoe factory until her mid-70s. Through it all, I never doubted that I would be able to support my own family because my mom and grandmother taught me by example that with hard work and a quality education or career skill, anything was possible.
I took that lesson to heart. I worked two jobs — at McDonald’s and the college newspaper — to help pay my way through state college. It was hard work with long hours, but I felt fortunate to graduate without a lot of student debt, and became a newspaper reporter before working for two decades in med-tech. Graduating without debt just isn’t possible for too many young people and working families today.
Seventy percent of Minnesota’s college graduates have taken on some form of debt in order to complete their education, with the average price tag amounting to nearly $32,000. Our state has the fifth-highest average student loan debt in the country, according to the Institute for College Access & Success.
As I travel across the district, I often hear stories of young adults putting off marriage, having children or buying homes because of debilitating student debt. This is not only bad for individual families, but also our economy as a whole.
Republicans and Democrats must work together to bring down the cost of higher education and make certain our high schools are preparing our children for the high-growth 21st Century jobs of the future.
I spent the last four years of my career leading the human resources division of a Minnesota healthcare manufacturer, responsible for approximately 4,000 jobs in the state – some that required two-year or four-year college degrees and many high-paying jobs that did not. One of the biggest challenges that Minnesota businesses face is finding the right skills in the workforce for the jobs that they need to fill.
That’s why we must also work to expand access to vocational and career training and make sure that our high schools once again show students all of the career options available to them.
My wife Cheryl and I have one son still at home in high school. And we’re lucky enough to help our other three sons get a quality education – two of them are enrolled in traditional four-year colleges, and our son Josh is pursuing an advanced manufacturing degree in a technical trade program.
Not all families have seen the benefits of our nation’s economic recovery in their pocketbooks. And many families are not able to save for their children’s educations. Leaders in Washington would be wise to prioritize education, including vocational skills and career training, if we are going to be successful.
In Congress, I would support legislation to provide for the first two years of post-secondary education – whether it is technical education, earning an associate’s degree or the first two years of a bachelor’s degree. In order to keep America competitive with the rest of the world, build a workforce and attract industries for the future, we must invest in Americans again.
Angie Craig is running for Congress in Minnesota’s Second Congressional District, endorsed by the DFL Party. She lives in Eagan with her wife and four sons.