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ASSOCIATION FOR CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION

Growing Number of Students Bypassing Degrees in Favor of Workplace Skills

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April 18, 2014

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Growing Number of Students Bypassing Degrees in Favor of Workplace Skills

Are your students passionate for learning? Interested in gaining new job-related skills? Looking for a little extra earning power? They might be part of a growing number of "skill builders," individuals interested in enrolling in post-secondary CTE programs at community colleges nationwide to gain marketable skills that they can apply in the workplace without pursuing an associates or bachelor's degree.

According to a recent article in Community College Week, these lifelong learners are building their earning potential, increasing their employability and staying ahead in their fields by obtaining education for the specific skills that they need - for example, a student might seek courses in information technology with no intention of completing a degree and graduating. Postsecondary institutions which are addressing this need are often penalized due to the perception that these students are dropping out of school. Rather, the practice holds great potential for students. The article references a recent study that indicates "skill builders in California community colleges overall saw their median salaries go up from $49,800 in 2008-09 to $54,600 in 2011-12."

Because these programs do not meet the qualifications to offer federal financial aid under the Higher Education Act, such as clock hour requirements and length of study, they are underserved by the law in its current form. ACTE supports a reauthorized Higher Education Act that better serves all programs and students equally, and has worked to raise awareness of this issue among policymakers in the past. To access ACTE's clearinghouse for information on this topic, click here.

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