Traditional or Technical School: Which Is Better?

I come from educational roots; both of my parents were educators, I married an educator and I was an educator myself. My husband and I spent many years in the classroom as students earning multiple degrees, to the point of being labeled perpetual students. You would think with this background, weighing the pros and cons of educational and career pathways for our children would be simple. However, my husband and I have come to a stalemate over one issue regarding a controversial educational topic.

My husband worked in a vocational school where students would graduate with trades in various fields like culinary arts, carpentry, plumbing, electricity and healthcare. Many of these students graduate from vocational high school with a starting wage of $20 an hour without an ounce of educational debt. Needless to say, my husband is a strong proponent of trade schools. Over dinner we debate: Was it really worth it? Should we have really spent all of that time and money on our education? What choice will our children make? Will they struggle with the same kind of college debt we are dealing with? Overall, the choice they make will be their own. However, as their parents, we would like to provide our insights, but we are at odds.

I can’t imagine not going to a four-year college. The value of being exposed to a world that is different from the one that you grow up in is tremendous. I can attest to the fact that my world exploded when I assimilated to the multilayered culture that is college. The opportunities to explore multiple academic cohorts made me the person that I am today and opened more than one passageway to careers. For instance, I received my bachelor’s degree in theater and graduate degree in education. Today I am a medical coder in order to be a work at home mom. I attribute my ability to transition into such a different role to my core classes taken in the sciences at college. Let’s face it: Careers may change several times to suit the needs of one’s ever changing lifestyle. A vocational trade requires complete dedication to a field of study whereas my four-year college experiences widened my knowledge base. A four-year college also broadened my scope of the world. Through the classes I took and the people I met, I established a cultural competence that I do not believe would have been achieved in a trade school. I am able to have conversations about art, sciences and the world at large with informed awareness.

While we both appreciate the aforementioned pros and cons of a trade versus a four-year education, ultimately this journey is a very personal one and must be made with consideration of multiple factors. Although my husband and I will be paying student loans – forever — I am grateful for the skills and knowledge I gained through a four-year college.

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