Alternatives to university: what are my options?
A traditional four-year college seems like the next default step for high school graduates, whether or not they have a career in mind. But with rising tuition fees, rising student debt, and many great jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree, it’s worth exploring all of your options before signing up for classes or designing your dorm. .
Here are five alternatives to college in a four-year school.
1. Community college
Also known as: Junior or two-year college
Typical length: One or two years
Credits: Associate degree or certificate
Community colleges are local schools, generally public, with two main routes for students: transfer preparation and vocational training. The transfer route is aimed at students who may wish to obtain a bachelor’s degree or higher at another college or university; the courses on this track are academic in nature. The vocational training route is aimed at students who wish to enter the labor market immediately after graduation; these courses usually teach specific skills that you can apply on the job.
Whichever route you choose, have a goal and a plan in mind. If you plan to make a transfer, contact your advisor regularly to make sure that the credits you earn will transfer correctly. If you are preparing for a specific career, make sure you can get the necessary credentials in that field.
Also known as: Work-based learning
Typical length: One to six years
Credits: Nationally recognized industrial certification
Learning are paid professional training programs where students learn on the job in addition to a few classroom courses. Apprentices work full time with wages starting around $ 15 an hour and increasing as their skills develop. Fields offering apprenticeships include trades in construction, manufacturing, healthcare, finance, telecommunications, and transportation.
According to the US Department of Labor, there are currently about 500,000 apprentices in the United States – a small number compared to the more than 20 million students enrolled in US colleges and universities in the fall of 2017, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. There is bipartisan and private sector support for expanding apprenticeship programs, but since the number of apprentices is limited, they can be competitive and there may be a waiting list.
3. School of trades
Also known as: Technical, vocational or vocational school
Typical length: One to two years, or less
Trade schools are usually private schools – many of which are for-profit – that prepare students for a particular career directly after completing their training. Many community colleges offer similar and possibly more affordable programs. Trade schools are available in areas such as welding, automotive mechanics, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).
Be very careful to research business schools before enrolling. For-profit schools tend to be more expensive, forcing students to take on more debt, and lead to poorer results compared to public or non-profit schools. Find a school accredited for federal financial aid programs and use the Department of Education University scorecard to compare typical school costs, graduation rates and median alumni salary.
4. Online college
Also known as: Distance learning, open and massive online courses (MOOCs)
Typical length: Varies depending on the credentials you are looking for
Credits: Certificate, or associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree
Doing online college can give you the flexibility to learn on your own schedule and pace, provided you are motivated enough to keep up with the pace of your work. This can be a good option for parents, full-time workers, and students with disabilities.
Some schools only offer online classes, while many physical colleges offer online classes in addition to in-person classes. Depending on your school’s offerings, location, and preferences, you can take all of your courses online or take some online and some in person. Either way, do a thorough research on the school before enrolling to make sure it is affordable, properly accredited, and has already prepared students for success after graduation.
5. Coding of bootcamps
Also known as: Coding school.
Typical length: Short term, usually less than four months.
If you are looking to launch a career in website and application design and building, a bootcamp coding could meet your needs. These are short-term, intensive in-person or online training programs on web and mobile development, design or security. Programs are offered by private, for-profit companies, not accredited colleges or trade schools. This means that you cannot get federal financial assistance to help pay for the programs. Their cost varies by location and whether you attend in person or online.
Bootcamps are private companies and therefore are not subject to government oversight. You will have to do your own research to find a reputable program. Start with the Advice on integrity in reporting results, a nonprofit organization that tracks credentials and job scores among coding bootcamps. You can also read online reviews, stories, and contact alumni through LinkedIn to get their feedback.
These are by no means the only alternatives to college. You can also enlist in the army, start a business or, to gain experience and make money while learning what you love and are good at, get an entry-level job.
How to pay
If you decide to pursue graduate school – whether it’s a four-year college or university, community college, or trade school – be smart to pay for it. The first step is to submit the free Federal Student Aid application, known as the FAFSA, to see which federal grants, work-study and student loans you are eligible for.
If you need to take out student loans, exhaust your federal options before borrowing private student loans, because federal loans offer more protections to borrowers.