In a discussion today, one mentioned the need to phase out academic programs that do not lead to “sustainable family wages.” The argument was that it was unethical to ask decent students to borrow money for a degree that would lead to a job that would probably not pay enough to survive and repay the loan.
There is a simplicity in reasoning that can be initially compelling. But I could not think of childhood education.
There are many community college programs that train students to work with young children. This is obviously important work, and working professionally with young children requires much more than the briefing parents give babysitters just before nightfall. My suspicion is that the loss of good day care is behind the dropoff in women’s labor force participation during the epidemic. Good child care is a real social need. But those who work in childcare are often paid exorbitant salaries.
The math of privatization child care is difficult. Very young children really need a low teacher / student ratio. Parents of very young children usually do not have their highest income year; Often, they are just starting out. So you have a small number of parents for each care worker, and most of those parents are still in their paycheck years. When TB was in day-care, the “tuition” we paid each year was more than the tuition of Rutgers’ in-state students. And there is no financial support for day care. When TG arrives, we realize that TW’s entire salary would go to day care; We don’t just see the point.
From a purely “student pay” perspective, the argument for stopping early childhood education activities is almost no-brainer. But from a “social good” point of view, shutting down childhood programs will be somewhere between gross and monstrous.
Longtime readers should not be surprised to learn that I would be happy to see a significant amount of childcare subsidized. If it’s easy to do this politically by paying the parents directly – then the parents at home also benefit – that’s fine. If workers caring for young children are reasonably well paid, there would be no moral conflict in training students for that job. But that level of change is beyond what a single college can legislate. Our students need to find jobs that are realistic.
Someone suggested creating some entrepreneurial training in an early childhood program, in the theory that students could learn how to open their own day care center. It has some merits, but it still depends on the low pay of the people in the trenches.
Free community colleges help reduce the amount of money students have to pay back. (Even after free tuition, of course, they have the cost of living while they are in college. But lowering tuition to zero will definitely reduce their borrowing and therefore the amount they have to repay.) But with that, we still have students The guys are told to spend year after year paying the same or less as many jobs they can get without setting foot in college.
Wise and worldly reader, is there a morally correct way to resolve this dilemma? I don’t want to take students into professions that are economically disastrous, but I also don’t want to give up early childhood education. Young children need and deserve an environment where they can thrive. Parents often need day care to work. Yes, sometimes there is a better parenting option to stay at home, but it is harder to close than before. Extended families are sometimes an option, but not often, and certainly not full-time. This is not a conflict that we can simply resolve, or resolve the romantic past by magic. This is a difficult one.
Any ideas there?