Connecting College, Trade School and the Poor House
What does a four-year degree teach an eager student? There is no argument that a BA or BS program aims to present an academically well-rounded candidate for graduation. Then again, there are some classes that simply do not market well in today’s cut-throat job market.
For example, Montclair State University’s “How to Watch Television" (for broadcasting majors) does not play well in the unemployment line. Berkeley’s 2008 “Arguing with Judge Judy" rhetoric department course offering, or Georgetown University’s 2007 “Philosophy and Star Trek," also do precious little to prepare a would-be graduate for the job market. While paying for steep tuition bills is sure to lead to philosophical enlightenment -- calculating the cost per credit hour can be an eye-opening experience -- a student who relies largely on student loans will find very little return on investment here.
On the flip side of the equation are traditional vocational/trade school classes that offer hands-on skill training in marketable fields. Cases in point are courses in medical billing, phlebotomy, accounting, legal terminology and business English. With the technical school entering the vocational learning environment, students not only prepare for trades, but also for positions in the tech industry, where hands-on experience on the latest model machines -- and latest programs -- makes a big difference.
Whom will the employer hire? The recent four-year college graduate with a lot of esoteric knowledge but little hands-on experience, or the trade school graduate who can hit the ground running and needs next to no training?
The answer is clear, as is the answer to the question of who will be able to pay back student loans and not go into default or enter the never-ending cycle of hardship deferments and forbearances. Adding insult to injury, while the four-year student is still watching Star Trek episodes for college credit, the trade school graduate is already in the work force, building a professional reputation.