A High School Diploma is Not Enough

Graduating from high school used to guarantee a good job. Not anymore.

  • More than 60% of today's jobs require education beyond high school.
  • More than 80% of new jobs will require advanced education.
  • What you earn depends on what you learn.

"A significant majority of employers say that a high school diploma is not enough to prepare students to work in their companies." Only 25% say that a high school diploma is adequate, while 75% say that graduates with two- and four-year degrees or training programs are well prepared. (, 2005)


Plan on College:

More Education Means Better Jobs, Higher Wages, More Choices

Look where the jobs are. The better jobs depend on skills and knowledge gained from education beyond high school, especially in manufacturing, health care, and education -- this region's leading business sectors.

The better the pay, the more education you need. High school graduates make 43% more than dropouts. College graduates make 62% more than high school graduates.

Fortunately, you can get the education you need right here in the Rock River Region. NIU, Rock Valley College, Rockford College, and UIC College of Medicine offer more than 60 different degree programs and many certificate programs for specialized training. In 2004, more than 18,000 students attended postsecondary courses.


College, Work, or the Military:

You need the same preparation for all three.

Almost half of employers and college professors agree that students coming out of high school are not well-enough prepared for entry-level work or study. (Achieve, 2005)

Why not? Because students are not taking the right courses. What used to be called "college prep" is now prep for everyone. High school graduates need the same skills, whether they are headed to the work place or to college.

"To succeed in high-paying, high-growth jobs, college students or employees must be able to write and speak clearly, analyze information, conduct research, and solve difficult problems," according to the American Diploma Project.

This means taking a core curriculum of demanding courses during high school:

  • 4 years of English with literature, communications, and plenty of writing
  • 3-4 years of math to at least the level of Algebra II. This does not include general math, business math, or consumer math.
  • 3-4 years of lab science
  • 3-4 years of history and other social sciences
  • 3-4 years of foreign language, fine arts, technology, and vocational and technical education

Studies show that if students take algebra and geometry early - starting in the eighth and ninth grade - they are more likely to go on to college and graduate than students who don't. Deficiencies in mathematics are major barriers for students seeking degrees in business, engineering, nursing, and liberal arts.

"Each and every one of America's 16 million high school students today must master complex skills and knowledge if they are to be able to get good jobs and compete in the global economy," says Intel CEO Craig Barrett.

Voices of Students:

"If I knew then what I know now.."

College students and new graduates who were interviewed by Achieve in 2004 said they would have worked harder in high school if they had known what was expected in college and in the work place.

Science and Engineering Education Is a Particular Need

The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that America will soon face a significant shortage in the numbers of qualified engineers and scientists.

In its annual publication, "Indicators," (2004 edition) labor researchers "observed a troubling decline in the number of U.S. citizens who are training to become scientists and engineers, whereas the number of jobs requiring science and engineering (S&E) training continues to grow. These trends threaten the economic welfare and security of our country."

If the trends identified in Indicators 2004 continue undeterred, three things will happen:

  • The number of jobs in the U.S. economy that require science and engineering training will grow.
  • The number of U.S. citizens prepared for those jobs will, at best, be level.
  • The availability of people from other countries who have science and engineering training will decline, either because of limits to entry imposed by U.S. national security restrictions or because of intense global competition for people with these skills.