There is a great article by Elizabeth Dwoskin in the November 20th issue of Bloomberg Businessweek titled "Why American's won't do dirty jobs." One of best American assets in this country is our agricultural industry. In many states, if it were not for beef (Montana), oranges (Florida), grapes (California), and corn (Midwest) our economy and our way of life would surely not exist as we know it. We are a well-fed nation because of our adoration of food and agriculture provides a very necessary economic and commercial engine for that love. Yet the problem: there is no one willing to harvest the crops.
Ironic isn't it?! Millions of people are out of work but are too snobby to take on the work of immigrants who come to this country to work tirelessly for near minimum wage jobs (or per piece or bucket or bushel)! But that is where the problem lies is the pay is not enough and the hours are horrendous requiring back breaking work that many of us went to college to avoid. After working for 12 years in worker's compensation and counseling legions of injured workers suffering from debilitating injuries due to physical labor (lineman, loggers, certified nursing assistant, truck drivers), I always touted the benefits of a good education - a desk job! Now I'm not so sure that we have been sending the right message. Instead, perhaps the message should be changed: work hard while you can while going to college to avoid having to do it forever!
BRAINSTORM: (Likely many won't approve because so few care to get their hands dirty but I think this could solve many problems and create a sustainable education system and agricultural industry - so bear with me as I elucidate). Harvest for Tuition! Yup - every student going to a public post-secondary institution can have their tuition waived if they put in 360 hours (6 days a week, 10 hours a day, for six weeks) of labor (per academic year) at a farm planting, maintaining, harvesting, and preparing fields. Okay, granted not everyone is physically capable of performing some of these duties but a majority are. Those who are not (and it's not because mommy said so) they can participate in other duties related to raising crops; forecasting crop futures (economics), assess value of crops and equipment (marketing/accounting), impact of weather (meteorology), pest (entomology), and other environmental factors (geology), tracking hours of the workers (human resources) and other aspects of the business of running a farm.
This would all be subsidized by the US government, students would then not need financial aid and those who participate will be able to utilize this experience in the class room as well as gain a better understanding and appreciation of a billion dollar industry and it's variety of crops, locations, politics, and power across America. It will be entirely voluntary thus eliminating the illegal immigrant issue. Those students who pass on this labor agreement will have to pay full tuition. In addition they will miss a sense of pride over calluses that ring their palms, a wicked farmer tan, and respect for hard work.