February 14, 2017
This is the third in a series of essays in which policy experts, educators, and journalists discuss their take on top priorities now that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is on the job. Read the others here.
More than 95 percent of the jobs created since the recession went to people who had completed education or career training after high school. This means that young Americans with only a high school diploma, along with those who never finished high school, have been largely left out of the economic recovery over the past eight years. And the pace of change in the job market — driven by both automation and globalization — shows no signs of slowing down.
Talent can be found everywhere in America, in small towns and big cities alike. Yet today, affluent American students are eight times as likely to complete a four-year degree as students from low-income backgrounds. It doesn’t have to be this way.
We need to grow opportunities and our economy by investing in the talent that exists in America’s young people. As the leaders of KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program), a national network of 200 high-performing, nonprofit public charter schools, we have more than 20 years of experience helping students from low-income communities get to and through college. Today, 10,000 KIPP alumni are currently enrolled in college, including more than 100 at the University of Houston and more than 50 at the University of Pennsylvania.