Amidst Growing College Regret, Career Training Graduates Are Telling a Different Story

By Angela (Ceresnie) Prince, former Climb CEO

In a recent survey from Payscale, 66% of respondents who had at least a bachelor’s degree said they had regrets about their education — which, given the cost of this education, is an alarming number. Education is supposed to be something that improves your life, but all too often it isn’t the reality.

That’s why, when we hear a very different story from career training students, we’re happy to support education that really works. 80%1 of Climb graduates (from career training programs) have rated their experience at their school “high quality” or “very high quality.” More importantly, not only did most of them land jobs after they graduated from their programs, but they landed jobs with strong pay and high growth potential.

In fact, surveyed Climb borrowers saw a median salary increase of 70.3%2 in their first job post-program and a median salary increase of 31.6%3 from their first to their second job post-program. According to David Sudia, a coding bootcamp graduate:

"I ended up coming out making twenty thousand dollars more than [my previous job], into my first job. So it was worth it. It essentially paid for itself."

David Sudia

What’s causing college regrets?

Of the respondents to Payscale’s survey, 27.1% said they regretted their student loans — and it’s not hard to imagine why. With 2018 graduates leaving school with an average of $29,800 in student loan debt, they would want those loans to have helped them land a job which enables them to pay it back without getting buried in monthly payments. But for many students that’s not the case, as “43% of college graduates are underemployed in their first job.”

Then, we have the second most frequently-cited regret: area of study. Those who majored in the humanities had the most regrets, with nearly three quarters saying they regretted their major. On the other hand, two of the three least-regretted areas of study were engineering and computer science, which according to the Payscale report “are consistently highly ranked among majors that pay you back. It makes sense that these professionals might have fewer regrets about their college experience.”

Far too often, students take out loans for an expensive education that should help them enter a career with a salary that justifies the tuition — but instead, they find that they’ve invested in a degree with a small starting salary and limited growth potential. In many cases, they aren’t even able to find jobs in their chosen field at all.

How do career training alumni differ?

Career-building programs like coding bootcamps or heavy equipment operation training, allow students to get their education in a relatively short amount of time for a relatively small price tag, and they set their students up to enter high-growth careers. This way, graduates like Kristy Glassick and Joshua Jaffe can be confident in their decisions:

“I was making this investment in my future — that part was easy to rationalize, that you're paying money for this course, and it's going to influence your career. The financing part made it possible.”

Kristy Glassick

“Changing or launching your career is daunting enough, and the cost of tuition at most code/trade schools can be very overwhelming. I’m glad I made the leap, however, because paying for school has been the easiest part of the process.”

Joshua Jaffe

As with Payscale’s findings, salary seems to be an important factor when it comes to how students feel about their education. Of surveyed career school alumni, 75% feel like their current employment either aligns well or aligns extremely well with their career goals — that 75% also saw a 112% increase in salary.4

How highly did respondents rate the quality of their programs?

How well did respondents’ post-program jobs align with their career goals?

What factors left these programs’ alumni without regrets?

When students who attended career programs were asked which factors affected their decision to attend a specific school, tuition cost was the most important factor considered. Career services and job placement were ranked second in importance, and school reputation, program duration, and schedule flexibility followed in importance.5

When asked about their experience at their program, the top factor that affected post-grad sentiment was “instructors.”6

These factors are important to keep in mind when building education programs. After all, people get an education in order to improve their lives, which means financial stability and work they’re passionate about. Like heavy equipment operator Jake Goodrum:

“It was honestly the best decision I ever made. It’s given me the tools to provide better for my family. I make substantially more money now, and I don't physically work as hard — I mean, I still work hard, but it's not as physically demanding as my other jobs.”

Jake Goodrum

1Based on a sentiment rating from 65 career school graduates.
2Based on 3,506 Climb student graduate survey responses.
3Based on 952 survey responses in which graduates informed Climb that they’ve held two different jobs since leaving their program.
4Based on 2,171 Climb student graduate survey responses.
5Based on self-reported survey results of climbcredit.com website visitors in September 2018. Synthesis of results based on 73/76 respondents.
6Based on a sentiment rating from 65 career school graduates.

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