Traditional vs. Trade Scool

Philip Rosenau |
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IF YOU’RE LIKE ONE OF MORE THAN 16 MILLION HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES, YOU’LL ENROLL IN A TRADITIONAL COLLEGE AFTER RECEIVING YOUR DIPLOMA, A TRENDING PATH (AT LEAST BEFORE COVID-19) FOR LATE TEENS.

Indeed, over the past two decades, enrollment at traditional colleges has risen more than 25%, from 13.2 million in 2000 to 16.9 million in 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

But a traditional school is not your only post-high school educational choice. Enrollment at trade schools has risen more than 65%, from 9.6 million (1999) to 16 million (2014), with many students migrating to a trade and filling a much-needed labor gap. In the 1980s and 1990s, enrollment in vocational school dropped sharply, creating a void of skilled tradespeople.

Of course, you know this first-hand if you’ve tried recently to hire a carpenter, plumber, drywaller … well, you get the idea.

No matter your academic credentials, the decision to attend a traditional or trade school has become more difficult than ever. Below is an overview of the key considerations:

- Required learning: If you’re heading for a specific career where a degree is required — for instance, engineer, doctor, or lawyer — a traditional college is a necessity. However, before you plop down your hefty tuition check, review the remaining considerations, which may give you pause.

- Escalating costs: Four-year college costs are STEEP. It’s not uncommon for a state university to cost $15,000-$20,000 per year (for in-state students), with private colleges costing $70,000 or more. Multiply your totals by four, add in the cost of books, and you can face a $300,000 tab — and that’s before any necessary post-graduate school.

- Five-year plans: Of course, the above is for those who are diligent enough to complete their undergraduate studies in just four years. Many need a year or two more, depending on their major(s) and whether they’re juggling jobs at night. In which case, add another $30,000- $140,000 to the four-year total.

- Deep debt: Many college students face deep student debt after they graduate, a financial liability that can last for more than a decade.

- Focused training: Trade school education is focused learning — students take the courses they need to excel at their career choice. Contrast this with many undergraduates at four-year universities, whose course loads include many courses that bear no relationship to their future jobs.

- Faster earning: Trade schools are often at most two years, after which the graduate begins earning money. This is often far sooner than those who attend a four-year college begin earning money.

- Growth fields: Many trades are experiencing high growth and earning potential. For instance, the job growth for electricians in Pennsylvania is projected to be 14%, with an average pay of more than $55,000.

So, will it be traditional? Or trade? The choice is not so easy. Consider your finances and professional goals before writing your tuition check.

 

 

This material is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. There is no assurance that the views or strategies discussed are suitable for all investors or will yield positive outcomes. Investing involves risks including possible loss of principal.

This material was prepared by LPL Financial, LLC.

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