Photo: Youtube / Ralphmysta
When Newnan, Ga. resident Mallory Williams, 26, enrolled at West Georgia Technical College in 2009, she had what millions of students at four-year universities could only dream of at the time: The knowledge that her two-year community college saw its students land jobs after graduation at a 100 per cent success rate. Granted, her particular focus of study — surgical technician — accepts only a couple dozen students per year, but the fact that she knew her degree could be put to use straight away was the type of guarantee many universities can’t make these days.
Just ask the half million college alumni looking to wait for the crappy job market to turn around by applying to volunteer for AmeriCorps. The organisation has seen its demand triple since 2009 due to the low employment rate, while the debate over whether a four-year degree is actually worth the time and cash it requires has run rampant.
Williams represents more than 40 per cent of college students who picked local community colleges over budget-busting universities.
The popular NBC sitcom aside, the rate of community college enrollment has skyrocketed 8 per cent since 2007, according to Inside Higher Ed.
Instant gratification. Your university bursar’s office might not tell you this, but in many cases students who earned an associate’s degree actually earn more than students with bachelor’s degrees. The Miami Herald reported the earnings gap in Florida for such graduates was more than $11,000 per year, with two-year students coming out on top.
Cost. This one is pretty obvious. When you cut your school time in half and are able to save on room and board by living at home, the cost of attending a two-year trade school is a steal. At $1,600 per semester, Williams’ education comes at a bargain compared to the average price sticker on a four-year university these days, which tops $15,000, according to CollegeView.
Convenience. For Williams, who is not employed while she studies to be a surgical technician, the fact that her commute to school was five minutes and she could still live at home was a key selling point.
Job security. Since most community colleges offer limited majors in different trade areas, they give students a specific skill set. Employers will know exactly what the applicant is capable of, rather than trying to figure out what to do with an English Literature major who minored in Eastern European Religion.
The con is that many two-year graduates are limited in their fields and will find it difficult to branch out if they ever get tired of, say, welding or auto repair.
Time frame. Not everyone wants to wait four-plus years to launch themselves into the working world. With a two-year program, you can become employable in half the time. Williams, who enrolled at a later age than most first-year students, said time was a major factor in her choice.
“I didn’t want to go to a four-year school because I didn’t want to take four additional years out of my life,” she said. “I’m not 18 anymore.”
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