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Choosing Options Other Than a Four-Year College

In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift away from traditional four-year college education as the next step for high school graduates. This trend is evident in the increasing

numbers of students opting for alternative options. At the Southern School of Energy and Sustainability in Durham, many students are choosing to enter the workforce directly, bypassing the conventional college route.


"After I graduate, I’ve got a lot of jobs lined up. I’m in the mix of HVAC and electrical. I can go straight to

work and not have to worry about being in debt."

Terrence Chance student


The statistics from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reveal a significant decline in post-secondary enrollment compared to pre-pandemic levels, with an overall decrease of approximately one million students. This data supports the notion that fewer high school graduates are pursuing four-year college degrees.

When asked why they are not considering college, graduating senior Damien Bronson cites cost as a major factor. He highlights the financial burden and the uncertainty of securing a job in the field of study as deterrents. Bronson himself intends to enter the workforce immediately upon graduation.

At Southern, Christian Coltharp-Parr instructs students in the Skilled Trades Pathways Program. He has observed that a significant majority of his students are opting for trades and vocational schools.


"There's a lot of money in the trades, especially w

hen you look around the Triangle area. We are blooming with building everywhere."

Christian Coltharp-Parr Skilled Trades Pathways Program Instructor

The skilled pathways program at Southern equips students with Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) certification, enabling them to be job-ready or pursue further education upon completing their studies. Bronson emphasizes that for those who do not envision themselves attending a four-year college, the trades offer a viable pathway.

Considering these perspectives, it appears that the perception of college has indeed evolved. Coltharp-Parr and his students at Southern believe that attitudes towards higher education have shifted, with a growing recognition that alternative paths, such as trade programs, can be equa

lly valuable and rewarding.

Overall, the Southern School of Energy and Sustainability recognizes the changing landscape and supports students enrolled in the trades pathways program by providing OSHA certification. This ensures that upon graduation, students are prepared for immediate employment or further educational opportunities.


Information provided by:

Brea Hollingsworth CBS 17 News

Raleigh, North Carolina


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