Steven Foxworth Analyzes Why Students Might Benefit from Attending Technical School Over 4-Year Programs
For generations, students have been repeatedly reminded that the safest, and most successful path after graduating high school is to pursue a 4-year college degree. However, while this advice was generally sound in the (distant) past, according to experienced educator Steven Foxworth, it is not necessarily the case today; at least, not for all students.
“When I earned my Bachelor’s degree more than a decade ago from the University of Mobile in Alabama, there was growing awareness that it was not an automatic ticket to a good job like many young adults thought,” commented Steven Foxworth, who currently teaches social studies for the Polk County School Board, which is the eighth-largest school district in Florida. “And these days, there are even more valid reasons for students, along with their families who may be footing some or all of the bill and sharing the risk, to think long and hard about whether a technical school is a better option.”
Foxworth refers to cost, time commitment, and job readiness, among others, as reasons that students should consider all of their options before taking the ‘traditional’ route.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average cost of a 4-year bachelor’s degree program at an in-state public college in the U.S. is $19,204 per year. That figure climbs to $24,854 for students who head out-of-state, and jumps further to $39,534 for students who attend a private college. Conversely, tuition and textbooks at a public in-district 2-year trade school can cost as little as $7,314 per year — and significantly less with grant and scholarship assistance.
Due to the rising costs, many students who head off to college are extremely worried about their financial situation, which has an adverse impact on their ability to study and maximize their academic opportunities by joining clubs and teams, and building relationships with their peers. Heading to a technical college instead can alleviate much of this pressure, and ultimately turn out to be a much wiser financial decision.
For students, the difference between attending a 4-year university and 2-year technical school is not merely two years on a calendar. Rather, it is two years in which they cannot gain meaningful experience in the workforce or bring home a decent salary commensurate to their abilities and aptitudes. The shorter time window also lowers the chance that students will dropout before they graduate.
Many students start out enthusiastic and excited about being in college — especially if it is their first time away from home. However, a worrying trend is that many students start to wear down and get burned out by the third or fourth year; this is amplified if they are agonizing over a growing mountain of student debt. This isn’t to suggest that students don’t dropout of technical schools, because they do. But two years goes by a lot faster than four years, and for some students that’s enough to keep them in the race until they get to the finish line.
Even more than the so-called adventurous and life-altering “college experience” — which frankly for many students is more of a Hollywood-created myth than a practical day-to-day reality — most students head to college so they can secure their place in the job market for the next 40, 50, or maybe even 60 years. However, many students who graduate from college are dismayed and distraught because rather than extending a hearty handshake, potential employers are giving them the cold shoulder; particularly if they are not graduating in fields like accounting, engineering, bioscience, IT, and so on. In fact, an estimated 40 percent of college graduates experience sustained underemployment, and often take jobs that do not require a college degree.
Steven Foxworth states that this reality check is much less likely for students who graduate from technical schools, because there is usually a clear and established path to local employers that are eager — if not desperate — to onboard new graduates.
The Bottom Line
Nothing above suggests that students and their families should categorically avoid college and head to a technical school. Rather, it is meant to provoke some serious, objective and critical thinking, and perhaps remedy some flawed perceptions or systemic prejudices as well.
Steven Foxworth adds that technical schools are not just a viable alternative for many students, but they are clearly a better option. Right now there are tens of thousands of college students, dropouts, and graduates struggling to find jobs and pay off debt, who wish they had taken a closer look at technical schools.