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What is your plan?

I am not an expert.  This is only my opinion after teaching in some career schools, some community colleges, and some universities in one metropolitan area.

Obviously, the career schools are in the news, what with some of them having recently closed.  I knew of two of them, and those two richly deserved it.  But that doesn’t make them categorically a bad deal.

Almost a side note, but I think it’s worth bringing up, just because, as a teacher, this is a pet peeve.  I believed any institution purporting to offer education would place some emphasis, arguably the highest priority, on the classroom.  I have not found this to be true everywhere.  Public, Private, community college, university, career school, etc.; without much hyperbole, it appears to me that the classroom is the last place many schools actually care about.  I don’t understand that, except, perhaps, that by the time the process gets to the classroom, some schools have made as much money as they’re going to make, so who cares?

This is why teachers have to adapt, improvise and overcome.

The better the school, the better the teaching environment.  Teaching in a University is worlds better than some of the places I’ve been, but there are still classroom issues.  And a process in place to resolve them.

How do career schools, with such a bad reputation, attract students?  Why do students pick them over the “name” schools, with their obvious advantages?

Career schools offer two things:

  • They can be easier to get into.
  • They can be quicker to graduate.

First, let me say this about schools, teachers, and so on:  Learning depends more on you than on anything else.  One of the worst teachers I ever had – the man absolutely could not talk to a group – taught me more about computers than any other experience I ever had.  We students had to work at it, though.  He was a very smart guy, a very nice guy, and an Einstein about computers.  He was not a teacher.  We learned anyway.

Some schools; some teachers, are worse than others, and some are better.  It is easier to learn in some places, and from some people, than others.  But those are NOT the controlling factor.  YOU are.  If you insist on learning, you will learn.  With or without a teacher, with or without a book, you can learn.  What you learn, how well you learn, is all up to you.  Easy or Hard, it’s on you.

I’m a great teacher.  One of the things that makes me good is that I teach my students how to learn; to make them better at learning.  It is easier to learn from me than from others, but I am not necessary to the process.  If you insist on learning, you will learn.

School costs you two things:  your time and your money.  Where’s the best place to put them; where do you get the best return on your investment?  How do you measure success?

Jobs.

Obviously, if you are looking at “name” schools, then you have a good idea of how HR departments perceive them.  But if you are looking elsewhere, how do you know?

You don’t.  So, ask them.

Plan ahead.  Whatever you think about your life now, at the tender age of high school graduate, or beyond, the future always brings changes.  That is not a reason to “wing it”.   Your life is important; it will become your children’s life.

Make a plan.  Have a direction. Pick a target.  Set a direction.  Have some idea of where you will be going and how you will get there.  Exert some control over your life; don’t let it “just happen”.  Your life is important.  Too important to “just happen”.

So, consider some jobs you might apply for after graduation.  Pick some HR departments and go ask them what they think of this school, or that school.  Doesn’t matter what you decide to do after graduation, their answers won’t vary significantly.  Most won’t respond.  Be stubborn.  This matters.  You matter.

Take HR hiring staff to lunch; ask them about their corporate reaction to various schools.  If you want a job at Valero, or HEB, or USAA, ask them what your school on a resume means to them.  FWIW, military recruiters will always talk to you.  If the military won’t accept your school to meet an educational requirement, be wary.

To be sure, check accreditation.  A school must be accredited.  It can be in the accreditation process, but know that; know what’s going on there – if a state school is opening a new program and that program hasn’t received final accreditation, that’s not bad – an accredited school seeking accreditation for a new program is likely to be successful.

Another place to ask is other schools.  If you want a 2 year program somewhere to get you into a 4 year school somewhere else, go to the 4 year school and ask them.  Will your course credits transfer to other schools?

Keep in mind, life is what happens while you’re making plans.  Life will happen whether you plan or not.  Many things will influence your life.  Be one of those things; be the major influence in your life on this world.  You will change your mind about many things as your life progresses, but have a mind to change.  Have a plan.  Plans change, but people with a plan succeed more often than people without plans.  People without plans depend on luck.  Not a good idea.

The so-called “career schools” offer you time and acceptance.  Many students are more likely to get in, and the programs can be completed in substantially shorter time. They often don’t have as rigorous entry requirements as other schools, so the academically challenged may be more likely to get in.  This is not necessarily a good thing.

Many of these schools accelerate the program – it’s called a quicker, or shorter term, etc., but there is no tradeoff in the work required to learn.  If you want to complete a ‘standard’ 4 month program in one month, you have to work 4 times as hard – 4 months of work must be completed in 4 weeks.  The courses use the same textbooks; there isn’t a “condensed” text for the shorter course.  A student seeking entry to such a school because of academic challenges may struggle more, hence the lower graduation rate for such programs.  But, the school loan doesn’t go away.  Pass or fail, win or lose, the money must be paid back.  You can’t declare bankruptcy; you can’t get out of it.

Speaking of which, please ensure the program you are seeking, anywhere, from any school, will qualify you to earn the income necessary to pay back any school loans.  Idealism is fine, but people have to make a living, the banker as much as the teacher.  I borrowed money, when school was much cheaper, and paid it back.  Eventually.

If you’re not sure of how you will pay back the financing needed for school, you may want to rethink your education financing.  There is already talk in policy circles about considering the return rate on education programs in award decisions.  Which is a careful way of saying we, as taxpayers, might want to consider whether we want to provide large amounts of money for History of Oppressive Basket Weaving Studies programs, there being a stunning lack of jobs for such.  Perhaps a more remunerative program should be considered.  Jobs being a measure of success for the career schools, more so than the traditional schools, they don’t usually offer such programs.  That’s why they are called career schools, they offer to qualify you for a career; a job.

What is your plan?