I was researching census data and reviewing social media comments concerning college education and loan forgiveness. I reviewed a study by the association of public universities showing laborers with only a high school diploma earn 62% of a laborer with a college degree. This educational difference results in a $15,000 annual wage gap. Unfortunately, the study did not report on laborers with some college or a technical college degree. I agree technical college degrees or certifications are not pushed as much and should be. But I will tell a difference I experienced between Gresham High School and Winlock High School.
I was a sophomore and junior at Gresham, and there was peer pressure and competition for GPA standing and which college you were going into. At Winlock, the peer pressure was not education, but partying.
I looked at the last census data expectations for Lewis County in 2019, which showed 10% of residents possessed a bachelor’s degree or higher. A local businessman explained to me that larger companies review the census data in their prospective job site locations. Because Lewis County has a low number of bachelors and advanced degree laborers, these companies choose elsewhere, or the companies that select Lewis County unfortunately do so for the large percentage of less educated wage earners.
Included in the census data for Lewis County was the median and average family household and single person household incomes. Median family households earn approximately $53,000 annually and $26,000 for a single resident household. With the cost of owning a home increasing in our area, affordable homes are in short supply at the Lewis County income level. On a personal note, I am a single person household with a bachelor’s degree and I earn five times the median income for Lewis County. Reviewing the previous statement, I also pay more in taxes to support our local governments, school systems and emergency services for my fellow citizens. So I believe a certain amount of student debt forgiveness is worth it.
People have asked, what has your education done for you? I graduated from Washington State University in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in business education. I served 20 years in the U.S. military. I started a master’s degree program, got stuck in the wars and did not finish. I currently work as a parts manager. I do not use my full college education. I am not an accountant. But my education helped me become a better soldier, understanding my soldiers’ problems and counseling them accordingly. I was also promoted ahead of my peers in the Army. My college education and experience and military experience made me a better person.
I am not advocating a college education for everyone; I am advocating that Lewis County residents need a marketable skill to improve their earnings potential. I am not bragging or saying look at me, but just passing along information. Lewis County is an awesome place to live, raise a family (I raised three young men here) and explore the great outdoors. You need a decent income to enjoy those things.