For-profit Career Colleges, Community Colleges or Adult Vocational Education -- Exploring the Options
Are you thinking of going back to school? Two out of three Americans are, according to a survey by the Career Colleges Association. The American people are dealing with high unemployment rates, layoffs and, of course, stiff competition for the job openings that are out there. For many Americans, this might be a prime opportunity to brush up on job skills or learn a new trade.
My own sister, at 51, went back to school to learn cosmetology. Unlike me, she has always been interested in the feminine arts: cutting, rolling, coloring and generally messing around with hair, nails and make-up. After all these years, she is finally pursuing her dream of owning and managing a salon. The only problem is that first, she has to learn the basics and get that license that is required in the cosmetology field. For this, she has to attend a cosmetology program.
Get A New Tax Credit
Also driving this type of thinking might be a new tax credit starting with the tax year 2009. Those taxpayers who earn less than $80,000, or $160,000 if filing jointly, will be eligible for a dollar for dollar tax credit of up to $2,000 for tuition and books. After the $2,000 limit, the taxpayer may take an additional 40% of the next $2,000 of tuition and books for a total credit of $2,500.
I spoke with Barbara, an IRS agent, who says that it has not been decided how the credit will be handled on tax returns as of yet, but it will be definitely be available for the 2009 tax year. If you do not have children going to college, why not use it for yourself? Save some money on your taxes while earning a degree. Enrich your life with an education and a more fulfilling career
What Are The Choices?
If you are thinking of going back to school, you need to research your options. For starters, many colleges offer certificate programs that offer basic skills to get one started in a new career field, or to brush up on new skills that can be attained in a year or less. For those who, due to time or financial constraints, feel that a four-year degree is just out of the question, there are normally just three options available: public adult vocational education, a public community college or a private for-profit career college.
Community colleges offer several advantages to the prospective student. The tuition is generally the lowest price option in higher education. For instance, our local community college, Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio would only cost $2160 per year (plus books), going full time year round. Community colleges usually offer some certificate programs as well as two-year Associate degrees. Most credits at these colleges do transfer to a four-year college, at least locally, if you decide to pursue a bachelor’s degree later. Of course, credit transfers depend on the requirements of the selected major. At a community college, you also have the option of full or part-time study, which is perfect for those who need to continue working while getting an education.
Adult Vocational Education
In some areas, students also have the option of a public post secondary vocational school, which is the option that my sister chose. Sometimes called adult education, these programs can give the student new skills so that they may work in certain trades. While some offer associates degrees, most public vocational schools only offer certificates, regardless of the program excellence or classroom hours involved. For those who do not care about a degree, but want to learn a trade, this is an excellent choice and in most cases, is about half the cost of for-profit career colleges. Students of most of these public vocational schools are eligible for federal financial aid and if applicable, the GI Bill.
Many communities have dropped the ball in this area, ignoring the need for adults to learn real skills that will actually train them for gainful employment. This is just one of the reasons that career colleges have stepped in to fill the void. Career colleges are proliferating around the country, with the state of Ohio alone having gained 12 new schools in just a one-year period from 2007 to 2008 for a total of 291 schools.
For-profit Career Colleges
Career colleges are for-profit schools and may be referred to as proprietary schools or technical schools. They are vocational type schools in nature. These colleges offer specialized training for specific programs, like Massage Therapy, Court Reporting, Nursing and many more. The student receives either a certificate or an Associate’s degree upon completion. Most of these colleges offer full time classes, though there are some that offer part time classes. Normally, the tuition is much, much higher than a community college and is priced by the academic year. Miami-Jacobs Career College in Dayton, Ohio costs $11,590, including books, for the 2008-2009 school year.
In spite of the price difference, for some students, the training and atmosphere of a career college is the best choice. With so many colleges out there, there is a wide variety of trades to choose from, though most schools themselves just specialize in a few different programs. With 291 registered schools in Ohio alone, there are available programs in many different career fields.
Many students excel in hands-on learning classrooms who fail in traditional classroom settings. My daughter is one of those students. The classes are smaller, the student population is usually much lower and a good portion of time is spent with students practicing and honing the skills of their new trade.
Do Your Homework!
As these are for-profit schools, one must be wary when choosing a career college. Like any other business, the bottom line is profit. I urge the prospective student to research a career college thoroughly before making a decision to attend. By doing a little homework before enrollment, a student can save time, money and regrets down the road.