With all of the Attention, Where is all the Financial Support?

I’m a postsecondary administrator and have been involved in public higher education for almost 20 years.
While serving at public postsecondary institutions, I have seen many trends and fads, but the most long-lasting and troubling is the defunding of public education, including career and technical education, both at the secondary and postsecondary level.

In so many ways, career and technical education is the solution to issues raised by critics of education in general. We’ve all seen the data that suggest that career and technical education aids secondary retention and completion (If not, check out the CTE resources page under the “What is CTE” tab.) We have also heard from politicians and business leaders that higher education should be aligned with workforce needs. Our very structure addresses this point, and advisory committees guide our curriculum decisions. Finally, we hear about skyrocketing student debt, but often this is a criticism of expensive elite or private 4 year institutions, not the public two year colleges where many of us work. While some of our students graduate with debt, it is not the eye-popping six figure debt that has grabbed national headlines.

In short, we are a cost effective, relevant choice that supports our local and state economies. We are nimble and innovative, focused on teaching and serving students.

As part of the ACTE Fellows program, we visited the offices of national legislators to advocate for career and technical education. In all instances we received a warm welcome and had a shared understanding of the value we provide to students, taxpayers and economic development. Even the President promotes free two year college for all as a springboard to success. We enjoy verbal support from these important players, and yet, there has been no windfall, no budget increases, and no deep pools of funding to help us do this important work.

So what do you think? Why are we cited as the solution by researchers, lauded by politicians, and yet the funding doesn’t follow? How can we hope to change that? How can we advocate effectively to ensure CTE is available for future generations and meet the skills gap of employers?