The Associated Press reports that in a town dominated by the University of Missouri’s flagship campus and two smaller colleges, higher education is practically a birthright for high school seniors like Kate Hodges. She has a 3.5 grade-point-average, a college savings account and a family tree teeming with advanced degrees. But in June, Hodges is headed to the Tulsa Welding School in Oklahoma, where she hopes to earn an associate’s degree in welding technology in seven months. “They fought me so hard,” she said, referring to disappointed family members. “They still think I’m going to college.” The notion that a four-year degree is essential for real success is being challenged by a growing number of economists, policy analysts and academics. They say more Americans should consider other options such as technical training or two-year schools, which have been embraced in Europe for decades.