Less time in school, little to no student loans, and a high paying technical career. It sounds like a bit of a stretch, right? That “too good to be true” scenario your parents warned you about. As a society, we have become so used to talking about the traditional four-year university track that anything outside of that box is perceive to be just not as good.
The hyperbole around higher education is in part a measuring stick for predicting how successful you will be in life, but it isn’t that black and white. Life-long learning and developing skill sets for a career or job are important aspects of post-high school education and there are so many options available today to do that. Students in technical and career colleges, for example, graduate to find rewarding careers and often enter the workforce with fewer hurdles than their bachelor degree-earning counterparts.
According to the College Board, the average annual tuition cost of an out-of-state four-year public college is $21,706 and the figure rises to $29,056 a year at a four-year private college. That means shelling out $116,224 for a bachelor’s degree. Conversely, a trade school education averages $3,131 a year in tuition costs. It’s also important to remember these figures do not include books, supplies, food, housing and other fees that students – particularly those in four-year programs – face.
Additionally, students in trade school find smaller classes, enter the workforce in less time than the traditional college route and often without student debt. The Simple Dollar takes an interesting cost comparison of the two educational paths and when you crunch the numbers, trade school can often be more lucrative than earning a bachelor’s degree.
Our bachelor’s degree mindset has come with some steep consequences. Student loan debt is currently a whopping $1.2 trillion and in 2012, approximately 43 percent of 25-year-olds carried student debt. Even more concerning is the fact that the current student loan default rate is 13.7 percent.
The cost of going to school is actually starting to impact our overall economy. Student debt has claimed the title of the second largest form of household debt since 2010 and a CNN report states student loan debt caused an eight percent decline in home purchases among Americans ages 20 to 39. Not to mention that individuals grappling with overdue loans face severe financial consequences.
If the cost effectiveness of trade schools isn’t enough of an argument, the industries these schools serve are currently desperate to hire skilled workers. Manufacturing in particular has been a hard hit sector, with many companies reporting difficulty filling open positions. At the same time, reports indicate that 40 percent of unemployed workers are Millennials, i.e. recent graduates.
So why aren’t students flooding into career colleges? Unfortunately, many old notions and misconceptions exist about what it’s like to work in a field like manufacturing, but today’s manufacturing industry is all about high-tech and sophisticated work with plenty of growth opportunities.
As more young people reject the idea of sinking into debt and graduating with a high chance of unemployment (or underemployment) they will hopefully turn to the promising career path trade schools can spark. Food for thought: if you found yourself a high school senior in 2014 would you consider trade school?