Bureau of Labor Statistics data

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that not only do earnings increase with higher levels of education, but the unemployment rate also falls significantly.

We all know that different jobs pay different wages – my previous column included data on the wide range in salaries among the various local job sectors. We also know that different jobs have different qualifications for getting those jobs. Experience, attitude, good work habits and other attributes always matter, but the single most important qualification for most jobs is education. The “Earnings and unemployment rates by educational attainment” chart shows this very clearly. The chart also shows that not only do earnings increase with higher levels of education, but that the unemployment rate falls significantly with each additional level.

In recent columns I have been tackling the concern: “My kids won’t be able to afford to live here.” As I have discussed, the amount and types of housing available locally are obviously important factors, as are the types of local jobs available and how well they pay. For the purpose of today’s column, let’s imagine that through outstanding community vision and planning, those issues are dealt with. Sufficient housing is available here, along with well-paying local jobs. Is the housing problem solved? Maybe. 

Someone will be hired for those jobs, and someone will live in the available housing. Will it be your kids? If they do not have the appropriate educational preparation for those jobs, it probably will not be. The fear will be realized: “My kids won’t be able to afford to live here.”

But with some advanced planning and a lot of effort, they will have a good chance of living in this area if they want to.

For many people, the mention of a college degree brings to mind horror stories about exorbitant costs and excessive student loan debt. It does not have to be like that. Affordable options exist; a college education does not necessarily have to be from an expensive private school in another time zone.

Our local Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) is an excellent community college that is very affordable. But to reduce even the small financial barrier, the privately-funded “SBCC Promise” program provides all local high school graduates with the opportunity to attend SBCC full-time, free of charge, for up to two years. It is comprehensive, covering tuition and all required fees, books and supplies (tinyurl.com/sbcc-promise).

Whether or not SBCC is part of the plan, California offers a wide variety of affordable college options, including both the California State University and University of California systems. With motivation, focus, hard work, and attention to financial aid options, these or other four-year college options can be achieved with little or no student debt at the end. Graduate studies or a professional degree can also be affordable options if the undergraduate work is pursued with intent and focus to finish on time and minimize any debt burden.

A feasible and affordable path to a college degree is possible, but it does require motivation and hard work. What gets a student excited enough to put in the necessary work in school? That’s a big question, but here are a couple examples that might be part of the answer for students in Carpinteria.

The Girls, Inc. of Carpinteria Eureka! Program is an intensive, five-year college bound STEM-based program that builds girls’ confidence and skills through hands-on opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) (tinyurl.com/carp-eureka).

Carpinteria High School has a science internship program that allows students to learn the skills required to be successful in a lab setting for future job opportunities and college classes (tinyurl.com/CHS-STEM).

There can be many challenges and barriers to taking full advantage of higher education opportunities. Worse yet, these obstacles are not the same for everyone in the community. (See the excellent report titled “Towards a Just and Equitable Central Coast” from the Fund for Santa Barbara: tinyurl.com/fund-report.) While we as a community try to address community-wide issues, each family must also work for the best future for their students. That means instilling in our students the sense that their future is in their hands. They need to understand that with hard work, they have a good chance of reaching almost any goal they set for themselves.

A Netflix movie is presently being made about Jose Hernandez, a UC Santa Barbara graduate who went from being a member of California’s migrant farmworker community to orbiting the Earth as a NASA astronaut on a space shuttle mission to the International Space Station (tinyurl.com/ucsb-nasa). His story is exceptional, but it is an example of what can be accomplished with a dream, perseverance and a lot of hard work.

Will your kids be able to afford to live here? There are no guarantees, but without an education, the odds are against it.



Mike Wondolowski is president of the Carpinteria Valley Association (CarpinteriaValleyAssociation.org), a local organization dedicated to maintaining the small beach town nature of our community. In his 30 years of involvement in planning issues, he has witnessed visionary successes, as well as decisions that were later widely regretted. When not stuck indoors, he can often be found enjoying Carpinteria’s treasures including kayaking and snorkeling along the coast, running or hiking on the bluffs or the Franklin Trail, or “vacationing” as a tent camper at the State Beach.

(1) comment


I am always struck at how kids are (or used to be) relatively the same all the way through junior high school. They attended the same classes and were largely oblivious to any socio economic differences between them. In high school the sorting process really begins. Those who are going to college and those who are going to go off and get a job. The reality is that while that first money feels great it may be the same for a very long time and lead to some resentment. Its hard to see your future when you are 15.

Now with the wealth and income gap ever expanding those inequities become sources of friction. I was lucky and managed to realize after high school that I needed to get a four year degree to do the things I wanted to do.

In my profession we are constantly trying to find people with the skills required and face a tough time. Its an employees market right now if you have the talent and you will be paid probably more than you are worth. Conversely you put in the time to get the degree and you will be rewarded for it.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.