“Earn-as-you-learn instead of loans. Annual wages of up to $82,000 upon completion”

Kelly Meyerhofer:

The percentage of Wisconsin high school graduates going directly to college is plummeting. In 2022-23, it was less than 52%. That’s down about 10 percentage points from six years ago, according to state Department of Public Instruction data.

It’s a trend experts say could threaten Wisconsin’s economic competitiveness.

Michael Ramsey, another job fair attendee, graduated from high school last year and took a job at a local movie theater.

“I felt pressured to go to college because that’s what everyone does and what you need to ‘suceed in life’ or whatever,” Ramsey, 19, said. “But I just think college isn’t for me. The student loan thing — that worries me. I just don’t know how it works. And I just think there are better options right now, like the workforce.”

The non-college going trend has always existed, and tends to increase when the labor market is strong, said Rachel Burns, a senior policy analyst with the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. But Burns thinks there’s more to the current dynamic than the robust economy.