Before the pandemic, college was a given for many high school students. Now more more are finding that there are affordable alternatives that might make sense.

Kate Lillemoen, 21, recently completed a coding bootcamp instead of completing her four-year degree.

Equipped with a certification from Tech Elevator, Lillemoen now works as a software engineer in Columbus, Ohio.

“Price was definitely a factor,” said Lillemoen of her decision to leave school and enroll in the 14-week program.

“If I had known then what I know now, I would probably have skipped college,” she said.

Kate Lillemoen chose to attend a coding bootcamp instead of graduating from college.

Source: Kate Lillemoen

As college costs continue to skyrocket, interest in these programs rose during the coronavirus crisis. At the same time, more and more large employers, including Apple, Bank of America, Google, and IBM, were no longer asking for college degrees.

“Before the pandemic, this was quite a niche market,” said James Rhyu, CEO of Stride Inc., the parent company of Tech Elevator.

“We have expanded our offering over the past few years,” said Rhyu. “We really believe that the skills required for a large part of the workforce don’t come from a four-year degree.

“College will become a less viable alternative, partly because of the economy,” he added.

While some of Stride’s offerings start at $ 1,000, Tech Elevator’s 14-week full-time program costs $ 15,950.

Tech jobs are among the better-paying positions, even at entry level, according to Glassdoor.

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A recent survey of high school students found that the likelihood of attending four-year school fell nearly 20% in less than a year – from 71% to 53%, according to the ECMC Group, a nonprofit that designed to help student borrowers.

Almost a third of high school students said the financial impact of the pandemic made them less likely to attend four-year college, the report said. Students said they placed more emphasis on professional training and employment after college.

More than half said they can achieve career success by taking three years or less of college, and only a quarter believe that four years of study is the only way to get a good job. The ECMC Group surveyed more than 1,000 high school students three times in the past year.

“It has changed a lot for students who have chosen the traditional four-year path,” said Katherine Pastor, a school counselor in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Pastor, who has worked at Flagstaff High School for 16 years, said about half of students would attend a four-year institution upon graduation. Now that number has dropped to 35 to 40%. Others opt for a community college, business school, or certification program.

“In the past year everything in her world has changed completely,” said Pastor. “Your priorities have changed because of the pandemic.”

According to a separate survey by Citizens of around 2,000 current or potential college students and parents.

It has changed significantly among students who have chosen the traditional four-year path.

Katherine Pastor

School counselor

“There are phenomenal opportunities for people to build great careers that might not be a full four-year degree and you don’t have to borrow $ 100,000,” said Christine Roberts, director of student lending at Citizens.

Overall, student enrollment fell more than 4% last year, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, with freshmen class making the biggest fall in the fall, down 13% year over year.

According to another report by Discover Student Loans, 63% of parents said their child’s plans after high school have returned to what they were before the pandemic.

But of those who have changed their college plans, most said they will now go to a school near where they live, go to an online university, or choose a cheaper alternative.

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