Last week as I was speaking about the mission of ISA, which is to prepare students who are traditionally underserved and under-performing to graduate from high school prepared for success in college, a man in the session argued with me that college is not meant for everyone– that lots of people make good salaries and live a good life without ever going to college. Since that conversation, I’ve been thinking about where do most people stand on this notion of college for all.

Where do you stand? Is it College for All! Or College for All? There is a choice.

I wonder what the man who challenged me would have said had I showed him these data. Note: Click on graphics to enlarge them. Changes in Real Wage Levels of US Male Workers by Education

As shown in this first graph, there has been a clear—and growing—advantage to those with college and graduate degrees. The increasing wage differentials are not just due to the fact that those with higher levels of education are surging ahead, but also because others are falling further behind.

Earnings and Unemployment Rates by Educational AttainmentThis chart shows that the median earnings of bachelor degree recipients are 65% higher than median earnings of high school graduates, and the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree recipients is almost half the unemployment rate of high school graduates.

These data are so compelling and give us evidence to challenge this prevailing counter message that everyone doesn’t have to go to college to earn middle class wages and enjoy the amenities that the middle class lifestyle offers.

When we argue that College is not for all, who gets excluded from the “all”? Is it your children or my children? Your nieces and nephews and godchildren? Or is it the perpetuating belief that it is black and hispanic children?

Level of Education Completed by Young Adults by RaceAs you can see from the data, unfortunately, the attainment of bachelor’s degrees by Black and Hispanic young adults has not kept pace with that of their white counterparts and significant gaps remain.

The vast majority of families who can send their children to college do so, despite the debt and the job market.

They know—and the data confirms—that a college education expands opportunity. Isn’t it better to have more opportunity than less opportunity? Certain life paths lead to greater opportunity. And a college education continues to be the major pathway to the middle class and beyond.

A new analysis, conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank, reports that the benefits of a college education are higher than ever. Those who are college educated will earn 52 percent more over a lifetime than those with only a high school education.

In addition to the wage earning potential, there are many other benefits of earning a college degree—better health, retirement income, job stability, and overall job satisfaction.

Certainly, a college degree has an impact on the person earning the degree, but it also has a ripple effect. Those who break the cycle of the first in the family to earn a college degree will impact future generations.

We know that where at least one parent has a college degree that their children are also more likely to earn a college degree.

Our challenge is how do we bridge the inequality gap so that a college education truly becomes a reality for all students?

I am compelled by a comment from Howard Gillman, a political scientist, who is Chancellor at the University of California at Irvine, who said that “college has to be a gateway through which talented young people can thrive, regardless of their backgrounds.”

We can do this. We can create schools where earning a college degree becomes the reality for low income students, for Black and Latino students—those who are marginalized and excluded from the “All.”

ISA's Track Record of ResultsISA schools have done it. Take a look at the college entrance, persistence and graduation rates of students in ISA schools. In all instances they are higher than the national average.

These are not selective students. They are the students excluded from the “All.”

ISA Student ProfileThey are students of color who come from low-income backgrounds and who enter high school with educational challenges.

Join ISA in our vision of college for all students so that college can be a choice that every student has the choice to make for herself.