Career schools a growing part of upper-level education


BALTIMORE, MD (Map, News) - Career and technical schools make up the fastest-growing segment of higher education as more adults decide four-year universities aren’t for them, and the stigma dismissing for-profit institutions as diploma mills fades.

From 2005 to 2006, the number of bachelor’s degrees granted at colleges grew 2 percent, while technical schools jumped 20 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

“There is still a place for schools that teach liberal arts where students find out who they are, but for those people who know what they want to be, like a nurse, or a worker in hospitality or criminal justice, they see our schools as preparing them for that occupation,” said Harris Miller, president of the Career College Association.

Thomas Bien, 30, of Catonsville, enrolled at ITT Technical Institute in Owings Mills for the practical, hands-on experience of learning data communications and system technologies.

“We’re not just working from books; we have an overall knowledge of how it’s supposed to work,” he said. “It’s a laid-back atmosphere. I’m not scared to ask a question. The instructors are always available, and I can go to them at any time.”

Wanting to make more money, Dustin Witherite, 22, of Reisterstown, enrolled at ITT, where he studies information security systems.

Maryland has more than 100 career and technical schools, according to Kris Marino, executive manager of the Maryland Association of Private Colleges and Career Schools.

Nationally, most students attending for-profit schools are working adults in their mid-20s and 30s who want a career change or to earn more money by getting a post-secondary degree, industry leaders say. More than a third of them are minorities, totaling 37 percent, compared with traditional schools’ 24 percent.

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