Over a year into the coronavirus crisis, many high school seniors have dramatically changed their expectations about the future. A recent survey of high school students found that the likelihood of attending a four-year school sank nearly 20% in the last eight months — down to 53%, from 71%, according to ECMC Group, a nonprofit aimed at helping student borrowers. Gone are the days that a college degree is the only path to success, and many families across the country are turning to trade schools to develop fulfilling, rewarding, and cost-effective career building.
At the center of a heated issue for several years, is the cost of higher education. Going to college in the U.S. is increasingly unaffordable, leaving millions in debilitating debt. As of 2020, the total student debt in the U.S. amounts to a whopping $1.68 trillion. Prices for undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board at public colleges and universities rose by 31% from 2007 to 2017. The average annual tuition fees at private universities amounted to $35,380 for the 2018-2019 academic year. Taking into consideration the costs of room and board, the total becomes $48,510 annually. For public colleges and universities, the annual costs of tuition amount to $10,230 per year. With room and board, in-state college students can expect total costs to rise to $21,370, with the cost climbing $10,000 higher for out-of-state college students. Although a college education is certainly still necessary for specific careers, other career paths now require specialized training in technology that bachelor’s programs are typically too broad to address. As the infrastructure, construction, and transportation fields grow, four-year degrees are becoming less of a necessity, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau has projected that between 2014 and 2024, the construction sector will add 790,400 jobs, reaching more than 6.9 million people.
Alternative educational programs can address the issue of declining student engagement. In many states, standard high schools are being replaced by alternative career and technical education (CTE) programs, or trade schools. These programs provide a hands-on learning experience and ease students’ transition into the workforce by providing critical job placement assistance services. Students opting for trade school can choose from a variety of career tracks, from health science, and hospitality, to STEM, and construction. Currently, 77% of high school students participate in CTE programs. Perhaps not surprisingly, trade schools usually have better graduation and job placement numbers when compared to traditional four-year universities. While almost 40% of first-time students at four-year institutions fail to graduate within six years, most trade schools can boast higher completion rates than 40%. Luckily here in the Hudson Valley, we have a plethora of BOCES opportunities stretching from the Capital District including Albany and Troy to Dutchess, Orange, Putman, Rensselaer, Rockland, Ulster, and Westchester Counties. Trade schools have shorter programs that can normally be completed in two years, and many trade schools offer certificate programs that students can complete in less than a year – making this an attractive, time-efficient option for many.
We know that decisions surrounding higher education are extremely personal decisions for each student. Regardless of the path that lies ahead for the next generation of young people, knowledge to unlock the various paths to successful futures is key to creating an adaptable, dynamic New York economy. At RBT, we are committed to keeping education professionals informed of important updates that may impact your financial planning. We extend a no-cost consultation to anyone with further questions or interest in working with our dedicated team of professionals.