An Argument for Erasing the Boundaries Between High School, College, and Careers–and Creating One New System That Works for Everyone
Not too long ago, many highways had toll booths. Drivers had to slow to a stop, fish around for exact change, and toss it into a metal bucket. If you missed, you were forbidden to climb out and retrieve your money; you just had to find some more and try again. Once you got it right, you waited for a gate to lift and the light to change from red to green. Now electronic systems with catchy names like “FasTrak” or “E-ZPass” collect tolls automatically and move travelers right through under an invisible eye; there are no barriers, no need to slow down. If only there were some kind of “Fast Pass” to smooth the transition from high school to college and careers. But the gates are many and the lights far too often red, especially for young people from low-income backgrounds, and, in particular, those who are Black, Latinx, and Native American and face additional barriers.
This white paper argues that the United States needs something like a “Fast Pass” for public education and training—a way to eliminate the many structural barriers that stop millions of young people in their tracks after high school and derail their efforts to build a better life for themselves and their families. The obstacles prevent them from going to college, earning a postsecondary credential with value in the labor market, and starting a well-paying career. For decades, innovators have tinkered with existing models and come up with good ideas that have created meaningful change, at least in isolated pockets. But attempts to scale solutions that help students from all backgrounds complete college and find good jobs so far have failed. They have not been sufficient to address the problems endemic to our broken—and inequitable—systems.