Glen Oaks Leaf Logo

Why Glen Oaks Now More Than Ever?

As a person who has benefited greatly from higher education, I am sometimes surprised by the reluctance on the part of some of our community to avail themselves to the education offered at Glen Oaks Community College. One does not have to look very far beyond the simple Google search to see significant benefits of advanced education.

This being the case, the reasons why so many individuals do not pursue postsecondary education are difficult to understand on the one hand but not when viewed from the perspective of potential first-generation students. This segment of our population in St. Joseph County is much larger than one might think. Suffice it to say that St. Joseph County’s educational attainment is in the bottom third of the counties in Michigan, and Michigan is in the bottom third of the states in the US.

I hear weekly from local employers who lament the fact that they cannot find candidates with the proper advanced education and training for the positions they have to fill. Please keep in mind that this education does not necessarily mean bachelor’s degree or even an associate degree. It can be as limited as one course in the technical subject to prepare an individual for advanced employment. An example of this would be welding where one course may prepare an individual to enter a well-paying position.

WHILE THOSE EARNING master’s, doctoral, or professional degrees still earn more during their careers than those with less education, the gap is closing, according to The College Payoff, a report published today by the Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce.

Those holding bachelor’s degrees earn about $2.27 million over their lifetime, while those with master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees earn $2.67 million, $3.25 million, and $3.65 million, respectively. That said, the major and industry a student selects ultimately have an enormous impact on lifetime earnings. Those with bachelor’s degrees who work either in management or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) earn more, on average, than people with advanced degrees of any level who work in fields like education, sales, and community service.

For a lot of people, going to a four-year college seems like an automatic choice when they graduate from high school. Over a 30-year career in the workforce, that’s more than a $500,000 difference in earnings. However, these numbers may not paint the whole picture. Due to the increasingly high costs associated with a college education, as well as other drawbacks, more and more people have been considering trade school as an education alternative.

For starters, a bachelor’s degree typically takes four years of study, which means that people who enter the workforce after receiving their bachelor’s degree aren’t doing so until age 22. That shaves some years off of a person’s career and can be considered an opportunity cost for experiencing the ‘real world’ hands-on instead of being in a classroom.

My response to young people approaching high school graduation is that they should seriously consider technical/trade school, particularly if they are not at the top of their class. A traditional four-year degree is not for everyone, and technical/trade school offers a pretty compelling career path, especially when considering the factors associated with a college education outlined above

A technical/trade program is an educational offering that exists to teach skills related to a specific job. Technical/trade programs are a more streamlined approach to education, with curricula focusing on developing a particular skillset and knowledge base for a career rather than receiving a general education. Technical/trade programs typically take a lot less time to complete, have smaller class sizes, and the majority of the training is hands-on, which is an ideal environment for many types of learners. Technical/trade certificates and degrees can lead to well-paying jobs like electrician, mechanic, machinist, nurse, agricultural equipment technician, and a long list of others, with room for growth and managerial potential in each field.

Salaries for technical/trade program graduates aren’t that much of a drop-off compared to a four-year degree. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, technical and trade jobs have a median annual salary of $35,720, though this figure varies heavily based on the particular industry and the experience level of the worker. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted earnings for bachelor’s degree holders to be roughly $46,900, amounting to an annual difference of $11,180. This stat, of course, doesn’t factor in long term earnings growth. However, because technical/trade programs only take an average of two years to complete versus four, that amounts to an additional two years of income for the these graduates, or $71,440. Factor in another $70,000 in costs for the many students who take an extra year to graduate from college, and technical/trade grads can be over $140,000 ahead at the get-go, making up for over 12 years of difference in income.

The average technical/trade degree costs $33,000 (and this cost is closer to $15,000 for traditional post-high school students at Glen Oaks), which, compared to a $127,000 bachelor’s degree, means a savings of $94,000. But that’s not all! If you assume that students are fully financing their education with loans at 4 percent over 10 years, the bachelor’s degree will cost $154,000, while the trade school degree will cost only $40,000. That’s a savings of $114,000 just on the degree. If a student completed much of their studies while in high school as dual enrollment they can reduce the total cost dramatically, even to free for early middle college.

Glen Oaks is fully prepared to provide the best educational choice desired by any student whether it be the first two years of a bachelor’s degree or a technical/trade certificate or degree. GOCC offers more than twenty technical/trade certificates and degrees across a wide range of fields including allied health and nursing, business, information technology, graphic design, electrical trades, automotive technology, machining, welding, computer aided design, agricultural equipment technology, and agricultural operations (combined with offerings from MSU). The pre-bachelor’s degree pathways are across all traditional academic fields and GOCC students have transferred to over 150 different colleges and universities over the past five years.

We invite one and all to take advantage of the opportunities GOCC offers to add value to lives and improve our communities. We were established more than 50 years ago by the county’s citizens for the county’s citizens. The investment in this institution has paid back the county many times over both individually and collectively. We remain resolute in our commitment to our students and our communities.