By Morgan Van Lanen, Aviator editor-in-chief
Go to a four-year university? Join the military? Attend a technical college? Take a gap year? Or find a part-time job?
Today, seniors have many options when it comes to choosing what to do after graduating high school. However, with the increasing price of college and the emphasis on getting a degree, that decision is becoming much tougher.
Marcy Becker, a counselor at De Pere High School, encourages students to do post-secondary schooling because of the benefits that come with it.
“Statistics show that people with some kind of post-secondary education will make more money than people who just have a high school degree,” she said.
However, with the increasing cost of college, she has been noticing that more students are taking different directions.
“From what I see, more students look at additional options, like starting at a technical college and then going to a four-year university,” she stated. “Wisconsin is unique because it has technical colleges, four-year colleges, and then there’s UW freshman-sophomore campuses, like UW-Fox Valley and UW-Manitowoc. At those two-year colleges, the tuition is cheaper.”
On the other hand, Pamela Harvey-Jacobs, the Director of Admissions at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, said that she has not seen an increase of students start at technical colleges and then transfer to four-year schools. Also, she doesn’t encourage people to choose a certain school based on cost.
“It has always been an option to start elsewhere, then transfer,” she said.
“I think that all students should look for their “best fit” school, then thoroughly explore financial aid and scholarship options to see if the “best fit” school is an option. I never suggest that a student choose a school for no reason other than cost. Usually, schools will work really hard to help make themselves affordable for the students who want to attend.”
She does suggest, however, talking to financial aid advisors from a school before deciding whether or not to rule it out because of expenses.
“There may be financing options that you’ve never thought of,” she said.
Marah Diedrick is doing what many do after high school: attending a four-year university. The senior will be going to UW River Falls in the fall; she admitted that she chose public over private because of the major price difference.
“Some people decide not to go to college because they feel like they can’t afford it and they don’t want to be in huge amounts of debt,” she said. “The price of college is keeping people from going.”
Jamee Haslam, a Financial Aid Officer at the UWGB, agrees with Harvey-Jacobs and thinks that the price of schooling should not stop young adults from attending college. She believes that many resources are available to students that can help cover the cost.
“Students should always apply for Federal Student Aid by completing FAFSA,” she said. “I always encourage students to apply for as many scholarships as possible. Federal Student Aid eligibility could include grant and loan funding. Grant funding is limited to the highest need students; therefore, not all students are eligible for grants.”
She also encourages students to work during high school. While in college, she suggests that people try to get an on-campus job, purchase used books at lower costs, and consider living at home instead of on campus if convenient.
However, going to straight to college isn’t the only option.
Taking a gap year after high school before going to college is also becoming more popular for a variety of reasons. Some choose to spend it volunteering, while others take the year off to make more money for schooling.
“Taking a gap year is big on the East Coast,” said Becker. “If you’re going to do a gap year, my suggestion is to do something that is going to help you learn something about yourself, whether it’s a year of volunteering or traveling. Some type of experience.
“I don’t think a gap year is a bad idea, but I do think that it’s something that needs to be very planned out.”
Senior Annie Hinker decided to take a gap year when she realized she was too late to apply for the NROTC Scholarship. Her plans include traveling to Costa Rica from September to November and then Ghana, Africa, between February and April of next year.
“Traveling is something that I have wanted to do for a long time and I figure that if I didn’t do it now, I probably never would,” Annie said.
“Hopefully, taking this gap year will give me a lot of good experiences. I hope it teaches me a lot about different cultures and how to interact with different types of people. I think it will turn me into a more well-rounded person.”
Hinker said that she hopes to attend either UW-Madison or Marquette University for nursing starting in the fall of 2016, but she isn’t the only one who had to make a tough decision.
Senior David Arendt said he had a hard choice deciding which school to attend; going to St. Norbert College means that he is going to be paying more for his education.
“The price of college influenced my decision on what to do after high school,” he said. “I was scared at first to go to a private school and pay a lot of money when the UW system was a valid option, but that meant giving up soccer. So, whatever the cost was, I was willing to pay it.
“I think the price of college really makes young adults thinks about whether they should go or not. It makes you question whether you need to go and pay all of this money and if it’s really going to help you in the end.”