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To the editor:

Maria Carrasco’s article “Fewer Job Offers for the Latest Class of COVID-19” shed light on an issue that existed long before COVID.

While virtual job interviews might offer a more equitable hiring process for historically marginalized populations in the COVID era, as the survey suggests, it does not eliminate disparities in obtaining paid internship opportunities and good jobs between white students and their Black and Latino counterparts. There is a fundamental problem here: the broken link between higher education and sustainable employment, which goes far beyond biased hiring practices.

The fact of the matter is that higher education is unaffordable for too many people, particularly individuals from historically marginalized and disadvantaged communities. For those lucky enough to attend college, the once tight connection between a college degree and a stable, well-paying job no longer exists, with or without internship experience. In these conditions, it’s not hard to believe that many young people are making the conscious decision to opt out of higher education and immediately enter the workforce, even if it is with the intention of building their savings to one day return to school.

Making college more accessible, and relevant, to underserved communities is the key not only to building a better future for our students, but also to create a more egalitarian economy that positions our country for sustained, global competitiveness.

Knowing a linear, 4-year college degree doesn’t fit the needs of a growing number of students – particularly nontraditional and underrepresented students – National Louis University, a minority-serving institution in Chicago, is piloting what we believe will be a game-changing approach to affordable, career-focused education called “Accelerate U.”

Starting with a tuition structure covered 100 percent by Pell Grants, the model creates and empowers communities of learners through flexible class schedules and online learning options, modular stackable certifications that allow students to secure fulltime, good-paying jobs on their path to a 4-year degree, employer partnerships, and ongoing, wraparound support.

Ultimately, the goal is not just to make higher education more affordable and accessible for anyone who wants to attend and graduate from college – it’s about restoring the broken link between a college degree and a well-paying job that lasts, regardless of whatever automation has in store for us in the future.

--Nivine Megahed
National Louis University

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