Young adults faced with decision to enter workforce quickly or to attend university
BY MATTHEW SCHWERHA For Sun-Times Media
Waubonsee Community College Automotive Technology student Sam Swithers works on a car at the college’s Sugar Grove Campus. | Courtesy of Waubonsee Community College
Going off to college is commonly touted as being the best four years of a person’s life.
Instead of heading off to college to accrue a pile of debt, some young people are choosing to forgo that experience and earn a degree quickly to get into the working world and start earning enough money to support themselves.
“There’s no doubt the more education you have, the more equipped you are,” said Jane Regnier, assistant vice president of program development and distance learning at Waubonsee Community College. “However, you want to think of education as a continuum or career ladder.”
At the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, 25 percent of Waubonsee’s students were enrolled in occupational programs, including automotive technology, a nurse’s assistant program and fire science.
Some of the programs range from the nine-hour renewable energy program certificate that can take only one semester to a two-year degree in automotive technology that will take two years of full-time schooling.
“70 percent of our students go part-time because they have to work to pay for school,” Regnier said. “They come here because our tuition is $102 a credit hour. You have multiple entry and exit points. That’s not the case in a four year program.”
Of course, Waubonsee offers plenty of opportunity for those looking to save money and go off to a university after earning their associate’s degree. Over half their students are in transfer programs that put them in a position to jump right into their majors at a university since they will have their general education requirements completed at Waubonsee.
If a four year education is what you seek, some majors are doing better than others when it comes to being able to land a job right out of college, and offer a better outlook to those who will be paying a heftier price for their education.
“Marketing has been the toughest industry to break into since back in the day,” said Judie Caribeaux, director of career services for Aurora University. “Now, there is a much higher demand for marketing than ever before. Social media marketing has a good forecast with internships and job openings.”
Aurora’s four most popular majors are education, nursing, social work and business.
Ironically, education is not one of the recommended majors for landing a job right after school.
“The industry that is struggling most is public education,” Caribeaux said. “The overall economy has a big impact on public education.” Accounting, nursing and social work are some other areas of interest that, according to Caribeaux, have a positive outlook.
“We have an aging population that is getting closer and closer to retirement,” Caribeaux said. “We are seeing more demand for social services and senior services.”
Having a degree or some form of education is always going to be beneficial, said Kevin Culbert, senior analyst for IBISWorld, an economic research firm that provides industry research.
“If you look at the unemployment rate of people with bachelor’s degrees, it is significantly lower than the normal population,” Culbert said. “The long-term payout largely depends on what you go to school for. Engineering or computer science will be much more cost effective majors.
“Having a bachelor’s degree is always better than not having one.”
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