ParentClick Santa Barbara

Private Versus Public Career Technical Education


As a long time college administrator, high school counselor, tenured professor, and career technical education dean, I have advised many students and families on career pathways and what colleges would be best to enroll in for their chosen profession.

Just the other day I was on a college campus and a father came to see me regarding nursing programs for his daughter. He wanted to know which nursing program would be best for her. This is a great question.

In the State of California, there are many private colleges including DeVry, ITT, etc. offering career technical programs such as nursing. Online, you can find many more to choose from. How do you decide which career technical program to enroll in? Are the private colleges better than the public?

There are many factors to look at when deciding on a career technical college. The first and foremost is knowing if the career technical college is accredited by a higher education accrediting agency such as WASC and if the program, such as nursing, is accredited by their own accrediting agency. Many career technical programs especially in the health science areas also have their own accrediting body.

Additionally, many career technical programs are also supposed to prepare you for a license. Check how the program will prepare you, for example, for the nursing state exam. Find out what their pass rate is for that exam. It has to be posted on the college’s web site. If the college has a low pass rate, you might consider applying to another college. Also, look at their job placement rate. This information must also be posted on their web site. In the area of nursing, often colleges have a partnership with local hospitals where the students do their clinical hours and then later get placed in positions after graduation.

The next factor to consider is admission. How many students do they admit into the program per year? Is there a waiting list? How long does it take to get into the program? What are the prerequisites for admission? Can you meet these admission requirements? Some schools are easier than others to get into. I was an administrator for 2 nursing programs at 2 different colleges. One program admitted everyone once the perquisites were met, the other one had a waiting period of over 2 years. It just depends on that locale’s supply and demand of students. You might need to move to another part of the state to get into a college that has an easier admission; less students applying to the program.

The next factor to consider is cost. The private colleges cost a lot more for their career technical programs than the public. A nursing program in the private sector could cost up to $60,000 whereas in the public sector it could cost as little as $4,000. However, to get into a public college program could be 2 or more years, whereas in the private sector, you could get in immediately.

I tell students that each year you are not working, you are losing income. Nurses, for example, make at least $45,000 a year with a median salary of $66,000 so if you are out of work for 2 years, you can lose over $90,000 in potential income. Can you afford to pay the $60,000 or take out student loans for the private college program? Is the program highly rated and accredited? Or, could you wait 2 years to get into a public college and not have any student loan debt.

I have an adult client now that I am assisting who wants to go into nursing. It is a career change for her so she is currently still working earning an income so for her she is willing to wait to get into a public college. She is in no rush because she already earns a living wage. For a younger student, the circumstances might be different where earning a living wage is vital. For this student, he/she might then select a private college for their nursing degree where they can get in immediately and complete
their studies a lot faster than the public college.

There is a lot to consider when deciding on a private or public education for career technical programs. Review the factors above to make the best decision for your particular situation.

Website of the week: Career Colleges and Technical Schools – Questions to Ask Before Enrolling

Avenues is a full service college and career advisement firm for young students as well as adults looking for a career change. Services include college admittance assistance, international student assistance, educational planning starting as early as junior high to college graduation, career planning, scholarship and financial aid advisement, college success counseling, and tutoring for all ages. To set up an appointment or contact the firm, please email at or call (818) 359-0859. You can find us at the following web site:

August 10, 2015

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