OPINION: Students Should Consider Alternatives to Four-Year Colleges


Students in the College of DuPage Cosmetology Program listen to an instructor.

While college degrees are becoming an increasing necessity, college tuition is becoming too expensive. Many millennials or Gen Xers are dead-set on college — but is that a realistic path for their life? College isn’t necessary for every single person. Everyone is different, and alternatives are available for those who don’t need college.

While college isn’t the end-all-be-all, some kind of post-secondary education is definitely needed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for high school graduates has been stagnant and the rate for dropouts has been increasing. Both are higher than the unemployment rate for college grads. In fact, that rate has been decreasing, down to 3.8 percent in 2017 from 4.2 percent in 2016. Georgetown University has also found that college grads make an average $1 million more in their lifetimes than those who didn’t go to college.

However, college is much too expensive for many people. A public four-year in-state college’s tuition plus fees and room and board has increased 484 percent from 1987 to 2017. Private four-year non-profits have increased even more than that, according to Collegeboard .

Trade schools are a very good alternative to those who can’t afford college but still need secondary education to work. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, the median salary of a trade school grad is $35,720, where the average cost of trade school is $33,000. Additionally, trade schools are only two years long, which gives graduates two extra years in the workforce compared to college grads.

Community college, another good alternative, offers two year associate’s degrees. Many jobs only require an associate’s degree at most, so community college is a very cost effective way to succeed as an adult. According to Collegeboard, the highest average cost of community college tuition plus fees is $7,980, less than half of the $18,707 a public four-year school costs. Additionally, employment for community college grads has been increasing.

In a world where people are obsessed with higher education, the best option isn’t always a normal, four-year college — trade schools and community colleges are excellent fits for most people. For a lot of people, the college life isn’t for them — about 40 percent of college students drop out, according to the Institution of Education Statistics. The negative stigma surrounding degrees from non-traditional four year colleges is ridiculous and should be ignored. After all, any degree is better than no degree in regards to financial success.