Retooling American Education

How to Move Beyond College-for-All

Foreword: What’s in Your Toolbox?

American education must be equipped with diverse tools fit for students’ diverse aspirations.

The Workforce Training Grant

Public policy should recognize that employers, not universities, often provide the most socially valuable form of training and should redirect public resources accordingly.

New Education Models Need New Schools

Education policy should spur the creation of new schools and learning models for job-oriented education.

Introducing Pluralism to Public Schooling

Successful school systems in democracies worldwide point to three essential levers to improve students’ life outcomes.

Embedding Employers in Education

Employers can take an active part in preparing high school students for the workforce.

Comprehensive Support for Low-Income Students

To tackle life’s challenges, low-income students deserve comprehensive support systems grounded in evidence.

Colleges Should Only Succeed When Students Do

A promising higher-education funding model ties institutional incentives to labor-market outcomes.

Giving Community Colleges a Clear Purpose

Community colleges are uniquely positioned to partner with industry and credential the workforce.

The Banality of Student Loans

With loans dischargeable in bankruptcy, with subsidies limited to a straightforward grant, and with providers responsible for financing the investments they promise to facilitate, the white-washed “ivory towers” would lose much of their magical allure.

Revitalizing the Federal Apprenticeship System

To capitalize on bipartisan support, federal apprenticeship programs must be rescued from sclerosis.


Different vocations require different sets of tools. Doctors require stethoscopes, mechanics wrenches. But when equipping its students, the American education system has but one tool available: college. However varied their aspirations and aptitudes, virtually every American student is subjected to college preparation. After high school, virtually every public education dollar goes to colleges and universities. The system has failed—even on its own terms—but what comes after? To properly equip students for their future vocations, the American education system must itself be equipped with different tools.

This Collection builds on Failing on Purpose, moving from the failures of College-for-All toward a vision of what lies beyond it. An essay symposium convenes policy experts and practitioners starting from points across the political spectrum and approaching reform from different angles. Their essays outline different philosophical approaches, highlight various case studies, and delineate discrete levers available to policymakers. A survey of American parents and young adults provides a comprehensive picture of Americans’ experiences and outcomes in the education system, exposing the realities of the college-to-career pipeline and the ways it caters to a narrow elite rather than the typical American.