It is so much easier to think that there is a single right career path that is best for everyone. It would mean though, that we all develop the same way, have the same goals, and that things won’t change over time. That hasn’t been my experience, however. We all learn differently, mature emotionally on different timelines, and sometimes things happen that force plans to change.
Most of us have an image in our minds of the ideal career path that includes going away to college, getting a degree in four years, then having a successful career and making lots of money. Perhaps you then go on to graduate school, get an advanced degree and have an even better career and make even more money. Either way, it is all pretty much sorted out by your mid-twenties and you get on with it.
It didn’t work out that way for me, and I suspect that it doesn’t work out that way for most people, but we still keep the image in our minds of the "right path". I’m not sure that every seventeen year old is ready for college straight out of high school. Many of the kids that are ready for college cannot afford to go off and live on the campus of their dreams. It is also true that things happen and young adults have family responsibilities that force them to make trade-offs between earning a living today and investing in their long term future. I suspect that there may be a strong correlation between the percentage of kids that are able to complete college in four years and the stability of their home environment. If anyone has been involved in studies showing percentages of college graduates with two parents at home, I would love to see it.
As a society, we have tremendous untapped potential that we can leverage if we can help provide the tools for these people to finish their educations. Information technology can provide us with an efficient way to support a learners that need to adapt their curriculum and pace to accommodate the need to balance job, family, and education. They also demand more and benefit more from their education by being able to put it to more immediate use.