Applicants need to be drug free

The push for college degrees has not always been a successful model. While we agree that more high school graduates from the Mahoning Valley should eventually attain college degrees, what the region also needs is to develop a work force able to pass drug tests.

Several years ago, Ohio sought to increase the number of high school graduates moving on to higher education. With a higher education funding formula based heavily on enrollment, universities across the state suddenly had to deal with more students requiring costly remedial intervention.

The universities also experienced poor graduation rates – 35 percent at Youngstown State, 34 percent at the University of Akron and 29 percent at Cleveland State. And that’s the percentage of students obtaining degrees in six years.

According to an essay by George Leef, director of research at the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, as college enrollment increased nationwide, academic standards decreased. The number of college-educated adults holding jobs that do not require a college education also increased, Leef said.

The push for college degrees has not always been a successful model.

Ohio now has a new higher education funding formula. This one is based heavily on course completion and graduation rates, not just enrollment. An emphasis has been added for four-year graduation rates rather than six.

That’s a good strategy considering that fewer than half of Ohio’s college students graduate within six years (YSU, Akron and Cleveland State are not the only culprits), an expensive venture for taxpayers who fund increasingly generous financial aid programs.

In pushing higher education on our high school students, many of whom are unfit for college classrooms, it would be easy for Mahoning Valley educators to lose site of something more basic. At many job fairs held regionally in the last couple of years, and in response to community demand that the shale industry hire locally for the much-anticipated oil and gas boom, the chief complaint from employers is the difficulty finding job candidates who can pass drug screenings.

It would be a shame if a majority of shale-related jobs were filled with imported labor. Families, schools and everybody else involved in preparing students for adult life should emphasize the importance of remaining drug-free.