Shanna Jackson, the president of Nashville State Community College, is struggling with a dilemma that reads like good news: Her students are taking jobs from employers who are eager to hire, and paying them good wages.
The problem is that students often drop their plans to earn a degree in order to take the attractive positions offered by these desperate employers. Ms. Jackson is worried that when the labor market cools — a near certainty as the Federal Reserve Board raises interest rates, slowing the economy in an attempt to control rapid inflation — an incomplete education will come back to haunt these students.
“If you’ve got housing costs rising, gas prices going up, food prices going up, the short-term decision is: Let me make money now, and I’ll go back to school later,” Ms. Jackson said. Anecdotally, she said, the issue is most intense in hospitality-related training programs, where credentials are often valued but not technically required.
Strong labor markets often encourage people to forgo training, but this economic moment poses unusually difficult trade-offs for students with families or other financial responsibilities. Cutting working hours to go to class right now means passing up the benefits of strong wage growth at a moment of soaring fuel, food and housing costs.