What out: College. What's in: Trade schools.


A weak credit market and badly beaten retirement portfolios are making some families rethink sending Junior off to a four-year college straight out of high school.

Here's one possible alternative: learning some sort of trade that can pay the bills and taking classes at a community college before transferring to a four-year college. For students who have questionable academic backgrounds and motivation, this can be a terrific route. Here's why: the attrition rate at four-colleges has soared in recent years. With more and more kids going to college, an ever-increasing number are dropping out. Government data shows that just 54% of students who entered a four-year college in 1997 had earned a degree six years later. For that 46% that didn't complete the program, post-college life often consists of large debt loads without the benefit of the increased earnings that come with a degree.

Students who learn a trade after high school will benefit from increased earnings power while they pursue education, and also benefit from the respect for hard work that comes with bootstrapping. Community colleges tailor their programs to accommodate non-traditional students, meaning that night classes while working full-time are a possibility.

The learn a trade and go to community college before transferring route isn't for everyone, but it's a great option for a lot of kids.