Thursday, May 26, 2011

Community Colleges and the Student-Debt Crisis

Community Colleges and the Student-Debt Crisis

May 25, 2011, 12:42 pm
A recent front page story in my local newspaper put the student-debt crisis in perspective: On average, this month’s college graduates will owe more than $20,000 each.
A few days later, an editorialist suggested that a bachelor’s degree isn’t worth what most people pay for it. Many young people would be better off, she opined, just getting a job that doesn’t require a degree. I was reminded of the story that circulated widely last year about a young woman who took out almost $100,000 in student loans to finance a degree from an elite private university who now finds herself drowning in debt and unable to find a job.
All of which left me wondering: Does a college degree have to be prohibitively expensive? And does it really matter all that much where you get your undergraduate degree?
I believe the answer to both questions is no. A person who started at a community college and then transferred to a state university could probably earn a degree for well under $20,000. And while the kinds of institutions that charge $100,000 and up for four years would doubtless disagree, I’ve seen plenty of evidence over the years to suggest that students who graduate from relatively inexpensive state institutions are just as successful as their peers with high-priced degrees from private universities.
For many high-school students, the idea of attending a two-year campus is about as attractive as a ban on text messaging. Going to a community college because you can’t get into a “real college” has been a standing joke for so long that NBC developed a sitcom around the premise.
And yet the list of those who started at two-year campuses and went on to great success, even fame and fortune, is long and illustrious. It includes former U.S. Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks, former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, former Speaker of the House Jim Wright, journalist Jim Lehrer, filmmaker George Lucas, billionaire Ross Perot, and playwright Sam Shepard.
Are there advantages to attending a top university if you can afford it? Sure. Is it worth going into debt for the rest of your life? Probably not.
My first thought when I read about the young woman with the six-figure debt, was, “here’s somebody who really should have taken advantage of her local community college.” She might now owe less than $10,000, which she could realistically hope to pay off before she qualifies for social security — even if she can’t find a job in her field.
It’s a shame no one gave her that advice five or six years ago. But perhaps as word continues to filter out that community colleges are economically viable options that won’t derail anyone’s career, we’ll see fewer of these student-debt horror stories.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Career Planning Stages - Consider The Big Picture Before Taking Small Steps

Career Planning Stages - Consider The Big Picture Before Taking Small Steps



When considering career path planning, it can be quite daunting because the process involves so much and can be quite confusing. However, Mark Twain once said: "The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one."

So to make planning your career path easier, we will give you an overview and break the journey into four stages.

1. Assessing your career needs
2. Explore possible options
3. Research the ideas from your prospects list
4. Promote your self

Put on your seat belts, the journey is beginning.


You have decided to look for work or change your career. Begin by assessing your career needs by defining your skills, your work values, and your interests.

  • Taking stock of skills is all about identifying expertise you have acquired in life. This can be through education, work, community activities or just normal day-to-day living.
  • Identifying values (the things that are important to YOU) is an important part of a successful career plan. People that pursue work that is in agreement with their values have a better chance of finding long-term satisfaction in their careers.
  • Understanding your interests can help you to aim for jobs that match your strength areas. This will give you a better chance of being doing well.

If you find it hard to complete this process of exploration you may want to ask help from a Career Counsellor such as myself. You could also access a Job Guide. The Job Guide is available in libraries and also on the Internet. Section 2 is a very useful tool in this stage of your Career Planning Journey. Or you can look up job search websites and go to the Career Resources section.

At the basic level, jobs can be divided into three kinds:

  • Those concerning data

Librarian, Computer Programmer, Accountant, Filing Clerk.

  • Those involving people

Social Worker, Nurse, Receptionist, Sales Person.

  • Those involving things

Florist, Motor Mechanic, Electrician, Fine Artist

Many jobs will have an element of all three, but you may already have an idea, which means most to you.


Explore possible options:

*Are you looking for a course of study, training or an immediate job?

*Which career options are possible? (If you see a job that interests you, also go back to the Job Guide website and discover the duties and requirements for various positions so you can see if it matches your skills and interest.)

*Which companies and organizations are recruiting? Have a look at various Job Search websites to see which occupations is a demand for. For instance: You may want to become a violin maker but what if no one is training in that trade or there is no demand for this work?


You will spend time researching the ideas from your prospects list. Visit websites, look through the Yellow Pages, read company brochures, look at press articles, education and recruitment directories get information from professional bodies. For good info Google the my Future or Government Workplace websites.

Find out where actual job vacancies are advertised. More importantly, find out which jobs are being advertised. Try websites such as SEEK, Careerone, Australian Jobsearch etc.

Refresh or learn any skills that you may be lacking e.g. computer skills.


Promoting your self. This is about self-marketing. Make applications, meet employers, and approach training agencies or course centres.


  • Write a resume or ask some one like myself to create a professional document for you
  • Prepare application letter
  • Prepare selection criteria
  • Prepare and practice for interviewing.
  • Brush up on communication skills

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