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Higher Education is About to Have Its “Back to the Future” Moment

July 16, 2019

By Peter J. Taylor, ECMC Foundation

In May, I went on the TedxUCLA stage to share my belief that higher education is due for its “Back to the Future” moment – a return to a time where all viable educational pathways, including career and technical education (CTE), are celebrated and pursued.

The classic 1980s movie was funny and entertaining, but also contained themes of transformation that can be seen as a metaphor to the value of education in promoting social mobility.  The metaphor should also remind everyone who cares about higher education of the pressing need to look back in order to move forward, as we strive to create a higher education system that works for all students, not just a select few.

Many of us believe a four-year degree is the best, surefire way to a good job that pays a family-sustaining wage and a ticket to the American Dream.  The problem is many people have grown to believe that the four-year degree is the one and only path to career success.

Today, many jobs that pay family-sustaining wages in construction, healthcare, culinary arts, and hospitality require some education beyond high school, but not a four-year degree. But, millions of these jobs are also unfilled. 

I am an optimist and believe that if we can apply lessons from “Back to the Future,” we will see many more successful graduates from our system of higher education, and, collectively we will have a truly transformative effect on today’s students, families and communities. 

Higher education is about to have its “Back to the Future” moment – and it needs your help. Will you join the movement?

Watch my Ted Talk to learn how.


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