Kimberly Hall, 20, was studying elementary education at the University of Maryland when she realized: this degree and this career just are not right for me.
“I started realizing that this just wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I sat in class asking myself if this was a joke,” she said.
Hall, like many others, found herself instead turning to trade school. She is now taking classes at Von Lee International School of Aesthetics in Pikesville, Md. to train as an esthetician and make-up artist.
“I don’t feel like I am taking classes just to fulfill major requirements because I will actually need to know these things when I start working,” said Hall.
The Princeton Review Best Value College rankings showed 144 of the 150 universities listed with average college debt in the thousands, 61 of which had average debt accrued while in college listed at more than $20,000.
Though she has to complete 600 hours of instruction in 17 weeks and pass a state board exam, Hall says dropping her degree in elementary education for trade school was a great financial decision.
“I didn’t want to keep wasting money on a degree I would never use, and I definitely didn’t want to end up with thousands of dollars in student loan debt,” Hall said.
While trade school has its benefits, Hall says the biggest downfall of it is the stigma of trade schools in society.
“A lot of people question my decision to attend a trade school by asking me if college was just too difficult,” she added. “I think people are so convinced that college degrees define success that they can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t just go to college instead.”
Deborah Womack, 22, attended Meredith Manor International Equestrian Center in 2008 to earn a riding instructor/horse training certification. After making it through three quarters of work, Womack says she was “disillusioned” and dropped out for community college.
“The reason why I opted for a trade school was because my parents were broke my senior year of high school, my grades were terrible [and] the thought of going to [community college] embarrassed me at 18,” she said.
However, Womack says an undergraduate degree still would not have helped her.
“Even if I had gotten a [bachelor’s degree] in equine science at a four-year school, I would still be thousands of dollars in debt with no way to pay it back,” she added. “So for a young person looking for a job in the horse industry, I made nearly every mistake in the book.”
Joy Gerardi, 18, graduated from high school and went straight to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. While she is excited to be attending one of the top culinary schools, she will face many of the same financial struggles as those attending four-year institutions.
“I will still have a lot of debt to pay off, but the program I am in is an 18-month, fairly rigorous program that totally immerses you into food and learning to be a chef,” she said.
Gerardi says that while she will be in debt when she completes her program in March of 2013, she knows she made the right choice in attending a trade school.
“I get to learn so many different aspects about food,” said Gerardi. “I get to learn from a variety of different chefs and when I graduate I will be well equipped to pursue something I’m passionate about anywhere in the world.”
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