No. 738



Did you hear about the man who had a BA, MA and a PhD, but he did not have a JOB? Please hold that thought in the back of your mind, because it speaks directly to an issue that could possibly cause a lot of problems in the coming years.
This thought came to mind a while back when I was talking with a medical doctor friend of mine, originally from El Dorado, Ark., when he said, “Everyone does not need a college education.” Now, you may disagree, but I think he’s right, as everyone does not need a college education. Everyone does need a quality high school education, and that should be the goal of every school district in our nation.
The El Dorado Public School District in South Arkansas is the envy of every school district in our state and perhaps every other district in the country that has heard about the Murphy Oil Company Promise Scholarship Program. This oil company, based in El Dorado and the country’s ninth-largest refiner, has made a commitment to invest $50 million over a period of 20 years to provide every student who graduates from El Dorado with a college education. This year, 95 percent of the school’s graduates are college bound and what parent would not want this for their son or daughter, especially if they were not financially able to provide this for them?
Here is a stipulation, which is also an incentive. Students who attended school in El Dorado since kindergarten are eligible for the full amount; students who attended all four years of high school get 65 percent. Those who have been in the district for less than four years are ineligible. There is another upside to this program, as school enrollment has increased in the past few years, when before the program they were losing enrollment. The local community college has experienced an even greater increase in enrollment, as families from 28 states and 10 foreign countries have moved to El Dorado. When you boil it all down, this “checkbook philanthropy” is also a brilliant move for the company. One of the things every large company has to have to succeed is human capital, and this Promise Scholarship Program pretty well insures that a highly educated pool of workers will be home-grown; ready, willing and able to go to work.
Now, back to my earlier statement that everyone does not need a college education. Many, perhaps most, of these students will not go to college in El Dorado or anywhere within driving distance, and work in the area when they graduate. Over the long haul, there is one elementary principle that cannot be escaped, and this is the law of supply and demand. When we reach the point that we flood the market in any given area of expertise, only the best and most qualified will be able to find a job. In the meantime, we have thousands of jobs and careers that go begging for qualified people to fill them.
Have you ever tried to find a good plumber, electrician, auto mechanic, carpenter and any number of other disciplines? Today, many of these people earn considerably more than a lot of college graduates. Something else we should always keep in mind is that these people should never be looked down on because they work with their hands and get dirty. I have said many times over the years that I strongly believe in education, especially literacy in the early years of a child’s life, but we should never lose sight of the fact that college is not for everyone.
In Arkansas we have a long way to go, as we have the second-lowest percentage of college graduates in the nation at 16.7 percent, ahead of West Virginia’s 14.4 percent. My red flag is only meant as a positive, because a college degree does not guarantee success.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)