Saying that a high school diploma is no longer the gateway to the middle class, Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page considers the prospect that college dropouts could obtain the equivalent of a college diploma, similar to a GED.

Could millions of college dropouts get a second chance through a GED-style equivalent of a college diploma? In today's age of blue-collar blues and online education, the idea of college-equivalency exams doesn't sound so outlandish anymore.

These are the new realities: The high school diploma is not the gateway to the middle class that it used to be. Amid new corporate efficiencies and the migration of high-paying, low-skilled jobs overseas since the 1950s, growing numbers of college graduates are occupying jobs like postal worker or restaurant manager that used to be filled by high school grads.

The results are new pressures on blue-collar families and the sort of class tensions voiced by presidential candidate Rick Santorum with his recent verbal jab ("What a snob!") at President Barack Obama's push for more college attendance. In fact, Obama, like Santorum, also has been a major cheerleader for community colleges and trade schools. He did not say college was something everyone should do; rather, he said it is "an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford."

Read Clarence Page's entire column at the Chicago Tribune.