Student loans

Is student loan debt driving up trade school enrollment?

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The crippling debt of student loans is pushing many people to consider career paths that don’t require a college degree. With approximately 46 million Americans who must nearly $1.75 trillion In student loan debt, it’s no wonder that apprenticeships — most of which are free and offer the same benefits as college degrees — are growing in popularity.

The rise of trade schools and apprenticeships

The Ministry of Labor registered a 73% increase in people entering the apprenticeship system from 2009 to 2020. Instead of paying to learn and therefore spending years repaying loans, students find apprenticeships that offer opportunities to “learn by earning particularly appealing. Students particularly value the hands-on experience that often accompanies trade schools and apprenticeships.

Additionally, students find that receiving this hands-on education from institutions like trade schools that focus on high-demand fields means they come out of their education ready to work. Therefore, business school applications fell from 9.6 million in 1999 to 16 million in 2014, with experts predicting a post-pandemic spike in claims after a brief drop from COVID-19.

Programs to modernize and expand learning offerings

While learning is a Often overlooked alternative to college, they are a great way to learn valuable skills and gain imperative experience that will come in handy when looking for a job. Although not a new concept, the National Apprenticeship Act was created in 1937, apprenticeships have historically been limited to manual trades such as the construction and utility sectors.

However, a harvard report identified the potential for apprenticeship expansion in 47 occupations, with the number of job vacancies growing exponentially to around 3.2 million. In addition, the industry-recognized Apprenticeship Program (BET), which was created in 2017 to allow employers to manage their own programs, has also expanded the many career avenues one can explore.

The Apprenticeship Building America Grant Program also generated $113 million in funding to modernize and diversify already existing apprenticeship programs with the hope of expanding them to the technology and STEM sectors.

While apprenticeship and trade school offerings continue to increase, they remain a positive alternative to college for many.

Image Credit: Monkey Business Images /

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