Does everyone need a four year degree?
The answer to the title’s question is of course not. But that fact shouldn’t change the design of k-12 education away from the goal of every child graduating high school with the ability to pursue a college degree without remediation.
I do not believe that everyone needs a four year degree. Far from it. Don Grimes and I for years published a report on good paying jobs that do not require a four year degree to try to make the case that there were other paths to the middle class. (Less true today than a decade ago, but still true.) And I certainly don’t believe that jobs that do not require a four year degree shouldn’t be honored. All work should be honored and respected.
The key questions policy makers should be addressing are “who decides and at what age an individual should start training for a job?” My hope is that it is the individual’s decision (not parents, educators, government, businesses, etc.) and that it happen after high school. To me k-12 education should be about expanding, not narrowing, opportunities for all kids. The goal should be every child leaving high school with the skills/capacities that makes a four year degree a real possibility. The option to live in the world that nearly all the readers of these posts live in. Not that every high school graduate has to (or will) choose to pursue a four year degree, but that it is an realistic option. To me this is the anchor of realizing the core American value of equal opportunity for everyone.