Before College: Technical Schools May Be Better Options Than Colleges — But Shop Carefully For Them!

Kenny’s beginning his senior year in high school, and he’s looking forward to it. For one thing, his required schooling will soon end — something he’s looking forward to because subjects like civics, English, foreign language, and health bore him to death.

Kenny loves cars and the systems that operate them, so he wants to become a mechanic — and this year he’s got two classes directly related to that. One on computer systems; the other an advanced automobile mechanics course.

His guidance counselor tells Kenny that entry-level mechanics’ salaries average about $39,000 a year, but they rise for those with the right education, certifications, and experience. So Kenny knows he’ll need more schooling after high school. The question? Where can he get classes focusing solely on the workings of motor vehicles so he won’t be bogged down with subjects he doesn’t like?

Technical schools — also known as trade or vocational schools — are exactly what Kenny needs. Their classes and hands-on experiences lead to associate’s degrees, certificates, and diplomas for specific careers. And because their coursework concentrates on those interests, students can graduate from them more quickly and with a tighter focus than from 2 and 4-year colleges. They can also cost less than such colleges whether they’re for-profit or nonprofit.

Moreover, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce reports that two-thirds of today’s jobs require postsecondary learning but not necessarily college, and that growing numbers of good jobs — positions paying 25-44 year olds at least $35,000 a year — don’t need bachelor’s degrees but do demand more than high school diplomas.

However, there’s a catch with technical schools. While many offer excellent classes and high placement rates, governments regulate and supervise this sector of postsecondary learning poorly — especially it’s for-profits — so some technical schools are rip offs. Their students suffer big educational debts, high drop-out rates, and few good jobs after graduation. Some are also in shaky financial condition, which can lead to overnight campus closures.

Kenny needs to shop carefully for technical schools, looking past their marketing pitches and instead:

  1. Checking out their costs, graduation and retention rates, salaries after attending, and student debt levels on the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard;
  2. Finding and talking to their current and ex-students about whether they deliver what they promise;
  3. Doing Google searches to see if the media reports any complaints or scandals on them, or if they’ve recently closed any of their locations;
  4. Contacting their state regulatory agencies for whatever data they can share about them.

Good, sound technical schools help students achieve rewarding careers they want. But before enrolling, make sure they’re good and sound. Thoroughly check them out.

Searching for ways to get a quality but affordable postsecondary education? Call College Affordability Solutions at (512) 366-5354 or email us at for a free consultation!

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