My turn

The choice is yours - college, vocational training or high school degree

2013-10-11T00:00:00Z The choice is yours - college, vocational training or high school degreeBy Dave Ryan Times Columnist
October 11, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Great Recession that began in 2007, and theoretically ended a few years ago, has brought serious attention to the new generation of high school students who are about to make life-changing choices with respect to their education.

This generation knows that to compete at all, they must have at least a high school degree. So unless these students are joining the military, going to work, or forming a rock band, the choices to further their education are narrowed down to vocational studies, which might offer the best chance of a good career and a lifetime free of debt, or a college degree that may provide a better chance for career advancement, but certainly no guarantee of a better job upon graduation (and a strong possibility of heavy debts from student loans upon their graduation).

Living in a strong manufacturing state, the future is looking brighter for skilled workers in Indiana. For students who choose to participate in strong vocational programs that prepare them for such jobs, future employment could be very promising.

At the collegiate level, the skills and knowledge a student achieves can pay off handsomely. Recent salary data shows that the ROI (return on investment) for a four-year degree from Purdue University is nearly $1 million dollars.

A very nice return on investment, particularly if that student is from Hammond and has taken advantage of the city’s College Bound Program—i.e. their tuition is paid for four years if they meet certain basic standards. The College Bound Program can be a game-changer for a good student who is faced with financial difficulties, and who may otherwise not be able to attend college.

Faced with these daunting issues, students today must rely not only on advice from their parents, but they must also rely heavily on advice from their high school guidance counselors. These counselors can educate students regarding college or vocational training options, and help them plan for their future.

A strong academic counselor will assist students in exploring their options, research colleges and/or vocational opportunities, provide guidance on financial aid, and basically help students make career-oriented decisions.

Not everyone should go to college, but given real options, people will find the career paths that are right for them. It’s your choice, so choose wisely.

Dave Ryan is the executive director of the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own. He can be reached at or (219) 931-1000.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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