The idea of college for all has been terrible for many whites, Asians, etc, but it has been disastrous for African-Americans. Robert Cherry notices that there is only a 20-25% success rate, meaning that the rest have failure at some level, some painfully so. He asks why we would want to give kids one more failure in life, often with debt attached. He recommends jobs and job training first for most. His biggest opponents are educators, who accuse him of selling black kids short by not insisting that any one of them that can get into a college should give it a try. But that is a self-serving value for the education tribe, not just because it means more teachers have jobs, but also because it reassures them that what they do is what's really important for young people. It's strokes for them. That doesn't make them any worse than a hundred other professions, but it's not any better, either.
An anecdote: a young friend who teaches at a wealthy suburban high school in Mass brought in people from differrent professions to speak to her classes. This included a few tradesmen and women who jobs did not require or even much care about getting a college degree. She was told by the principal to never do this again because - as you may have guessed - they didn't want to be selling their kids short. Not that they're snobs or anything.
In mental health the push toward jobs in and of themselves being good for people increased throughout my career. I wasn't much involved myself, dealing mostly with acute situations, but we learned to be highly protective of a patient's ability to hold onto their job and get back to work. We made more effort to get them the phone numbers they needed, the filled out forms for insurance or HR, and increasingly took the risk of releasing people more quickly, even when they looked shaky, in order to hold on. It could sometimes go bad, as a person not ready went back into work and screwed up or offended others and lost the job, so we did not just take any patient's word for it that they had to, had to, had to get out now to keep their employment. But we loosened up considerably over the years, and the numbers from many studies kept reassuring us that the risk were paying off. Once you have a job, much of it becomes automatic even when you are compromised. Maybe you can't skate forever, but you can do a lot until you get better.
It's good to be needed somewhere, a hard-to-measure benefit that is likely even more important than the oft-praised "structure," or "acquiring work skills." Those are good things, but the sense of accomplishment and value is better.
You may remember the story of Jon Ponder from last summer, the ex-con who has a jobs program for offenders that has a remarkable success rate: 64% found stable employment, only 6% reoffended, and that is with one of the groups it is hardest to find jobs for.