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The College You Go To Should Fit Your Life And Meet Your Goals

Recently America has been debating the value of a college degree, asking “Is it worth the cost?” Now a new report from the American Enterprise Institute says the answer is “Yes, but …”

“Predominant narratives about the bachelor’s degree—that say either “BAs for everyone!” or “Don’t bother with college”—are misguided because they lack important nuance,” the report’s authors write. 

To figure out whether a college degree is worth it, they say, it’s not just important to understand how much it will cost and how graduates tend to do economically – it’s also important to ask what a potential student’s goals are. To know what they want out of the degree. 

Brent Orrel, one of the study’s authors, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that “The college-for-all push swept in some people who weren’t ready, couldn’t really afford it, and perhaps didn’t have a clear idea of why they were going — people who wound up dropping out or underemployed, burdened with debt.”

For people who have the time, resources, and capacity to get a college degree without going into substantial debt, there is absolutely a wage and career benefit. The statistics are clear. But for people who don’t need a traditional degree to reach their goals, or for whom going to college is a much bigger risk, the situation can be quite different. 

As The Chronicle notes: “The discussion needs to shift away from an either-or frame to focus on the individual goals of students, and what path might best lead to those goals. This is not a quick decision based on the average salaries of majors or other misleading data, but a long process of reflection and dialogue.”

The solution is not to try to cram everyone into a single kind of college experience, and then penalize the people who don’t get it. Rather it is to create more kinds of colleges that fit students’ lives and meet their goals. 

Calbright is one example of how that notion is working. Calbright is a free community college, which takes the financial risk out of attending. Calbright is an online community college, so students can study wherever they want. Calbright is flexible, allowing students to study how they want, when they want. Calbright uses a Competency-Based Education system, which means students can move quickly through the material they’ve mastered, but also keep studying as long as they need to without any penalty. 

That makes college accessible to far more people. Taking a chance on your education doesn’t mean taking a chance in your life. 

Additionally, instead of traditional degrees, Calbright offers certificates in technical and business skills that companies are hiring for in California. While students can study at their own pace, the certificates are designed to be earned in less than a year. That means Calbright is effective and career focused: If you want the skills and credentials to get jobs in fields like IT Support, Data Analysis, Cybersecurity, Project Management, Network Technology, or CRM Platform Administration, Calbright is a perfect choice. There’s no ambiguity: It’s clear what you’re going to college for, and what you can get out of it. 

Calbright is a school designed for a specific population, adults with busy lives and responsibilities, who have specific career goals: transitioning to or improving technical or business careers. 

And it works. Calbright student satisfaction is high, and reviews from alumni are explicit that their Calbright experience helped their careers. 

College doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all experience. In fact, it’s much better when it’s not.

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