Students seek faster path to degrees through vocational and trade schools

The rising cost of tuition and the constricted job market have students open to enrolling in alternative institutions, like vocational schools, in hopes of earning a degree.

Lisa Westlund, a counselor at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco, said there is no simple answer to give to students who don’t know what to do after high school.

Westlund said many students these days lack the desire and motivation to attend a four-year institution, but they are interested in other educational pursuits such as culinary school, beauty school or vocational school.

“Students shouldn’t restrict themselves into thinking they have to go to a university,” Westlund said. “There are many possibilities out there and sometimes it’s best for them to attend technical schools based on their financial situation or what their parents want for them.”

SF State freshman Ana Duenas said she came from a large family where everyone attended universities.

“I had the support of my family to go to school,” Duenas said. “I was sort of pressured to choose SF State, but I love it because it’s really rich in culture and they have a good ethnic studies program.”

ALHS college and career counselor Maria Martinez calls this a lazy generation that can dream big, but wants everything handed to them. They look for the quickest way to achieve a goal without having to put in the hard work, which is why vocational schools seem so appealing when they offer a two-year degree and the prospect of quickly finding a job afterwards.

“Most people today just want to pursue their career so they enter into these private institutions,” Martinez said. “But they don’t understand that with a bachelor’s degree they can use it anywhere, compared to a degree from these other institutions, which are limited to that field.”

Martinez said students who are quick, hands-on learners could be perfect for vocational schools.  She said these schools have programs specially built for those kinds of students because the classes are so fast-paced.

Former SF State student Lashanna Cummings said she tried all sorts of institutions after she graduated from high school in 1996. She started her college career at Sacramento State University, then bounced around to other college campuses across California until she found herself at SF State in 2002.

Cummings said after she completed her first semester at SF State, she was told that she would have to take certain classes over again after her transcripts were never received from other campuses.

“(SF State) told me I basically had to do everything all over again,” Cummings said. “From that point I didn’t feel like starting over with SF State or any other university.”

Cummings said her desire to be the first in her family to earn a college degree led her to attend DeVry University, where she will be graduating in October with a degree in business.

“The feeling I’m going to get when I graduate will be comparable to child birth,” Cummings said. “It’s going to be one of my proudest moments, and I’m so excited.”