Getting technical: how to beat the college money game

By Lisa Aberle

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Sept. 16 2013 1:35 p.m. MDT

Just because the education is comparatively inexpensive doesn’t mean that it doesn’t provide an average income. The same report lists that the median wage for radiologic technologists is $55,120. Imagine what you could do with that salary with little or no student loans.

Once you decide on a certificate that seems like a good fit, the second step is to find an appropriate school. Watch out for for-profit career institutions. In my somewhat limited experience, they are very expensive and don’t often offer a quality education that goes with the high price. Of course there are exceptions, but usually you can easily find a more inexpensive option that still offers a quality education.

In addition, you can find programs by looking at the professional associations’ websites or accrediting agencies. For my field, you can find all accredited programs on our accreditation agency’s website. This information includes all programs’ annual costs, so you can easily compare your costs of attending one program versus another. Our programs are also now required to publish job placement rates, board exam passing rates, and program completion rates. This easily allows the prospective student to evaluate our program and compare it with others.

If that information isn’t readily available, ask these questions:

  • How many of your graduates find full-time jobs (and how quickly) after graduation?
  • What is the expected salary in this region?
  • What is the first-time pass rate on the board exam, if there is one?
  • What is the percentage of students who graduate?
Do your research carefully and talk to other graduates or others in the field. Your choice of occupation can greatly influence your lifetime earning potential. Selecting an inexpensive school can give you a boost.

I know that, in general, higher degrees lead to more money, but I think vocational programs like this can be great inexpensive options for college.

What about you? Do you have experience with vocational or technical education? Did you find it valuable? Any cautionary tales?