Career landscapes and industry needs are constantly evolving, and so are the ways Americans seek the skills needed to pursue their chosen professions. With combined student loan debt reaching a staggering $1.68 trillion in 2020, many individuals looking to advance their education and career are seeking alternatives to traditional four-year universities.
Currently, 15 states cover college costs for students who meet certain income levels, community service fulfillments, and grade requirements. As of 2019, legislators in 23 states had proposed similar programs. While the program requirements, and financial allotments, are different from state to state, there is a growing movement across party lines to create alternative avenues for workforce training.
States also use various—and at times complex—grant and reimbursement models to fund these education programs. And while students might find that amounts provided offset the majority of their educational costs (including tuition), but not all. Course fees, transportation, and book costs are often not covered by the state. Some states require recipients of aid from these programs to remain in-state for a certain amount of time after graduation, or only offer funding towards skills that benefit certain local industries.
Even in states without free or discounted education programs, community colleges cost a small fraction of what a prospective student could end up spending on a four-year degree, making them the most viable financial option for many. Stacker compiled a list of the community colleges whose graduates earn the most money, using 2020 data from Payscale. Colleges are ranked by mid-career pay, with ties broken by early career pay. Colleges that primarily issue bachelor’s degrees were not considered.
As the country’s demand for skilled workers expands past the output of graduates from four-year colleges, encouraging individuals to pursue two-year degree programs and professional training programs is a feasible solution when trying to meet the needs of growing industries. Considering time spent, financial cost, and earring potential, community colleges often provide programs that are on the forefront of career development.