What Are My Alternatives to a Four-Year College?

Posted October 08, 2015 by Christy Wood, Financial Aid Director & filed under Education & Research

alternatives to a four-year collegeBy now most of us are conditioned to believe that after graduating high school, your only option to obtaining a good job, and to earn a good income, you’ll need to go to a traditional four year school. However, with the skyrocketing cost of education, that path is becoming increasingly out of reach for many people. Even for those who do have the means to go to a four-year school, the next few decades are spent trying to dig their way out from a mountain of debt from student loans (the average American college student graduates with $28,400 in student loan debt).

The trade off for paying such astronomical figures to go to a four-year university was that you’d almost surely have good paying job in your field of study waiting for you after school. Even in the post-recession economy, this just isn’t’ happening. Not only are 8.5% of recent college grads unemployed, but 16.8% are “underemployed” meaning they’re working in jobs that their working part-time, still job hunting or have just completely given up on the job search. For someone who decides to go to school later in life and doesn’t have a security net like their parents, these are particularly daunting figures.

Of course, this isn’t meant to be a cautionary tale about the horrors of post-graduate life, it just proves the value of “alternative” education. Many people, mistakenly, believe the only post-secondary education option is a four-year school, however there are many, many other options than that. Programs like community colleges and online studies have proven to be among the most popular for those who chose to go away from the traditional educational path. They offer quality education but are usually much more budget friendly and shorter in length, making them a perfect option for adults looking to go back to school.

Clearly, if we had to look at cost options, the types of schools that could be reasonably compared are community college and the traditional four-year institutions of higher education. Many students and their families benefit from completing their associates or a series of courses that will transfer to a four-year college of their choosing in the future. Why? The cost. A traditional four-year institution could easily cost $10-$20,000 a semester. This may not even include room and boarding, living expenses, or books and supplies. Meanwhile, a community college may charge about $200-$300 per credit. This is clearly a huge benefit for people with limited resources.

Money and time aren’t the only things one should consider when looking into alternative schooling. Other important factors include accessibility, location, flexibility in their courses and programs, guidance and time to help you make important educational decisions as well as services and programs to help non-traditional students. If you’re an adult looking to go back to school but still have other responsibilities, those factors should be of the upmost importance.

The bottom line is that a post-secondary education is almost vital in today’s job market. However, the traditional four-year programs aren’t delivering on the promises they make of future employment. In comparison to an expensive and time-consuming four-year education, alternative programs are becoming more available and increasingly cost efficient. If you’re going to go to the trouble of furthering your education, don’t you want more bang for your buck?

To learn more about what flexible and cost effective programs are available here at AMC, request a course catalog.

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