A recent Wall Street Journal piece profiled (subscription required) Walla Walla Community College, an innovative school offering an "Enology & Viticulture" program: That's right. They'll teach you how to make wine. The college has a commercial winery and its own label. According to the Journal, "Most of the students arrive at the college with the same dream: owning a winery. Some are just out of high school. One-third to one-half already have a degree -- some have two or three -- and are changing careers after years as teachers, lawyers or other work in the corporate world. Several students are past retirement age."

Programs likes this one are of vital importance to the future of education in America, and not because we need more alcohol. The fact is that most people agree that, in this global economy, some kind of post high school training is important for career success.

But according to the statistics, just 54% of students entering four-year colleges in 1997 had a degree six years later, strong evidence of a high attrition rate at our nation's colleges. What's the problem? I think that, as higher education becomes increasingly common, a lot of people are being shuffled off to four-year colleges when their skills and interests just aren't well-suited to that. Vocational training and innovative programs like the Walla Wall Community College one provide alternatives for gifted kids who may not be interested in or suited to four-year colleges.

Hopefully other community colleges will take a look at Walla Walla's success and pursue similar programs in other career paths. One career that's expected to grow rapidly and could be ideal for animal lovers? Dog grooming. Try finding that class at high schools or community colleges.


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