The Advantages of Alternative, Vocational Programs

It seems as though every day we hear bad news about higher education. Tuition is rising, nearly 40% of all college students fail to graduate even in six years, and many of those who do graduate can’t find jobs— yet are saddled with debt.  And nearly 40% of all college students fail to graduate within six years.

While young people continue to be pushed to get a college degree, some are finding alternatives that suit them better. One of those alternatives is “certificates.” These are credentials awarded for vocational programs that prepare students for specific jobs, in fields ranging from metal working to office management. Getting a certificate usually takes two years or less. It is cheaper than a four-year degree, for both students and taxpayers (federal grants and loans are available for certificate programs).

The authors of a new report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce cite data that on average, getting a certificate increases wages by 20% above what a high school graduate would earn. Many certificate holders earn more than graduates who have associate’s or bachelor’s degrees. In computer and information services, average earnings for certificate holders are $72,498 per year for men and $56,664 for women.  Mostly community colleges and vocational, alternative schools offer these certificates,

There’s a debate going on in this country over whether everybody ought to go to college. Though college should be available for all students, a four-year degree is not the route for everyone. Certificates offer those with a vocational interest opportunities solid job prospects for less time and money (and thus lower debt) than do many four-year degrees.