Students Switch from Traditional College Courses

Education has certainly changed drastically over the last couple of decades and so has the way students approach this pivotal part of their careers.    Unfortunately money has always been an issue in choosing your education and now it has become an even bigger part of the decision making process.

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In earlier times, the four year college degree was pretty much the only option for young people seeking to continue their education but now there are lots more options.  Although this traditional route is still the most popular many students are becoming mindful of both the cost and the burden of debt that it brings for years to come.  Of course it’s true that statistics suggest that an investment in most educational course sees a corresponding increase in lifetime earnings the benefits are not quite as clear cut as they once were.

Students are starting to actively compare the expected earnings increases with the amount of debt that they will encounter in pursuing college degrees.  There is no doubt the gap in closing and in some subject areas there is little to be gained financially by pursuing a college degree in specific subjects as far as future earnings is concerned.

Americans owe more than $1.3 trillion in student debt between some 43 million students, it is a huge amount of money and only expected to rise.  Do economies and individuals benefit from taking on these levels of debt?  It is becoming an important election issue as well as a difficult life choice for individual students.  They do increasingly realise that college degrees are expensive and extremely pressurized, the days of endless frat parties and sitting around using a proxy for Netflix to watch all day are long gone.

Many are switching from the traditional routes and looking at community college educations instead.  They are generally much more affordable and flexible allowing students to continue to work alongside their studies.  In essence you can normally achieve a college degree within the community college framework for much less money although it may take a little longer.

The prospect of obtaining a degree without accumulating huge levels of debt is obviously increasingly attractive to students.    It’s also a useful safety net for students who are so adverse to accruing debts that they consider ignoring further education completely – community colleges give them other options.

The focus is perhaps more now on life-long learning rather than the four year cram that is a normal University education.  There are other benefits as well as cost, students can adapt and structure their learning over their lifetimes something that is not always possible when you have to make such an important decision at such a young age by choosing a University degree.

With thanks:

James Williams, BBC World News Streaming, Faber Press, 2015.

Is Community College an Austerity Option?

Over the last couple of years the admissions to US community colleges has fallen over 2% according to a report from a respected higher education research group. Many experts seem to attribute this to the growth of jobs and the gradual economic recovery. These two factors are considered to be very important to the numbers of people that enroll in community colleges.

The rationale is that in times of high unemployment – education is a safer option. Anyone unable to find a job is taking less of a risk by investing in their education and there are obviously less options when the number of job vacancies falls.

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There are many different figures reported about how community colleges are doing but almost all of them point at a downward trend. The figures form an almost negative correlation with the economic success of the country.  To access the reports you may have to access from your home account as often commercial IP addresses are blocked, this service is a residential VPN if you have issues.

In some senses this is to be expected, education has always been something of a fallback position to many individuals however it does represent a more worrying trend that may affect the whole education sector. This is the fact that many people are starting to question the values and impacts of a college degree. As more and more people have degrees for example the value of these qualification will inevitably fall. Although most studies suggest earning a degree will normally be rewarded by a rise in salary the boundaries are starting to blur.

Even with community colleges, a degree is a significant investment in time and money. Without the expected rewards being available then the attraction also falls considerably – why risk everything for a negligible salary rise that may not even happen. In Europe where the number of people obtaining a college degree has risen sharply in recent years, many students are finding themselves frozen out of their chosen field simply because of the competition.

It is very frustrating for a student who has invested years of their life and many thousands of dollars in their education ending up working in a menial or low skilled job. This means that they are generally left with little prospect of ever paying off their education debts which in many European countries are linked to salary.