The Wage Gap: Schools Aren't the Only Problem

''Why the wage gap just keeps getting bigger'' (Economic Viewpoint, Dec. 14) is an insightful observation on important workforce issues. Another matter must be thrown into the mix of disturbing factors regarding education. While it is true that our schools are not doing a universally good job of preparing pupils for post-secondary education and training, many of these individuals are still being accepted into college--in schools that are more concerned with ''enrollment management'' than with maintaining appropriate standards for admissions.

For the sake of institutional survival, many colleges are accepting students in the current generation who would have failed to meet standards 20 or 30 years ago. An involved alumnus recently told me that his undergraduate college was accepting over 70% of its applicant pool to meet the goal for the incoming freshman class!

Thomas M. Hines
Loudonville, N.Y.

In trying to explain why the wage gap is getting bigger, Laura D'Andrea Tyson mainly blames bad schools in poor areas. True enough, but surely the eclipse of good manufacturing jobs plays a large role, too. These once bridged the gap between the high- and low-paying jobs, but as military preemption of skills eroded the technical superiority of their products and the cost-effectiveness of their manufacture, what was left was exported; hence the virtual eclipse of such high-skill industries as machine tools, rail equipment, etc. There was no attempt to revive them when some military industries were cut back. In the absence of job opportunities and role models, no wonder many young people feel that not even ''education'' can free them. Globalization is no excuse; labor costs are now higher than ours in close to a dozen countries.

John E. Ullmann
Hempstead, N.Y.


Updated Dec. 30, 1998 by bwwebmaster
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