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Four-year college alternatives

Success after high school doesn’t have to mean a degree from a four-year university

Four-year college alternatives

When deciding where to attend college and what program to select, families consider a number of important factors: the student’s academic record, the availability of jobs in the future in a given field, and how well various careers match student interests and preferred learning environment.

For some students, attending a four-year college immediately after high school may not be a fruitful choice.

Years ago, I read a book called Other Ways to Win by Drs. Kenneth Gray and Edwin L. Herr that changed my view about the postsecondary selection process.

In general, the authors say that we should stop counting how many of our teens go to college and instead count how many are successful after high school.

It means that students and parents should consider all their options, including two-year associate’s degrees and technical training.

Should your teen pursue a trade education or an associate’s degree? Here are some questions to consider as your family weighs its choices.


Ask your teen

• What is your academic record, attendance record, motivation?

• What are your strengths, and in which subjects do you excel?

• Are you emotionally and academically prepared to handle a four-year curriculum?

• Have you done any career assessments that identify potential career choices?

• Do you learn best in large classes or small groups?

• Do you need a fair amount of interactive learning and hands-on application as a balance to lectures, reading and research?

• Do auditory, visual or tactile messages have the greatest impact on your comprehension and retention?


Ask a potential college

• Does the institution offer tutoring?

• How accessible are the instructors for extra help?

• Does the program result in entry into a high-demand career?

• Are there flexible course times?

• What type of data is available regarding graduate placement?

• How satisfied are employers with the graduates they hire?

• How long is the program?

• What are the credentials of the faculty?

• Does the institution employ a method for students to demonstrate to employers attainment of skills and competencies, such as a portfolio? 

• How much career support is provided after graduation? 

Consider these facts from "Other Ways to Win: Creating Alternatives for High School Graduates."

• Of the new job openings in 2000 to 2010, only 21 percent will require four-year degrees.

• The fastest growing sector of jobs will require an associate’s degree or diploma.

• 83 percent of workers with associate’s degrees or technical training will have the same or higher annual earnings as four-year degree graduates.

Parents can help their teens choose an educational and career path wisely so that their education is clearly and solidly connected to employment, job growth/demand and high wages. Remind your teen that there are many ways to win in life after high school.

Peter J. Pavone is director of the Milwaukee Colleges, Bryant & Stratton College, in Milwaukee. He believes that many kinds of postsecondary venues can result in a person’s career and financial success.


Careers that pay

Is your teen looking for postsecondary training that doesn’t necessarily require a four-year degree? Check out these fields: 

• Drafting

• Plumbing

• Computer systems specialists

• Software support

• Nurse

• Medical assistant

• Surgical technologist

• Electronics and engineering technician

• Accounting assistant

• Computer graphic artist

• Paralegal

• Computer systems installation and repair


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