There are many kinds of schools and programs to choose from. Learn more about the options available for Promise Scholars.

It’s not uncommon for folks to use “post-secondary” and “college” interchangeably, but post-secondary can take many more forms than four-year schools such as colleges. And many of these alternative programs offer skills and knowledge that are in high demand in the workforce. Below we’ll discuss some of the many types of educational opportunities available to Promise Scholars.

Types of Post-Secondary Schools

Colleges typically offer a wide range of courses in many liberal arts subjects, ranging from writing, history, languages, math, or science, but there may also be specialized colleges such as those discussed on page 19 (e.g. arts, agriculture, nursing). Colleges often have smaller class sizes, which can result in more personalized attention from faculty. Students who attend these schools may go on to a variety of careers or continue on to graduate school.

Universities are typically larger than colleges and offer more majors. These schools are also more likely to offer advanced degrees, which may be a consideration for prospective students pursuing careers in fields that require master’s or doctoral degrees. Universities are usually larger than colleges and may correspondingly have larger class sizes. These schools often emphasize scholarly or scientific research and graduate students may teach classes rather than professors. Students who attend these schools transition to a variety of careers or continue on to graduate school.

Community colleges are typically a more affordable option, community colleges offer two-year associate degrees as well as many certificates. Existing to serve the community they reside in, community colleges sometimes have less rigorous admission requirements. Often programs at community colleges prepare students for particular industries or careers. Students may also consider starting at a community college before transferring to a four-year school.

Career, Vocational, Trade, and Technical schools offer specialized training, often preparing students for specific industries or careers. These schools may be public or private, non-profit or for-profit. Programs may last weeks, months, or years, depending on the area of study. Students who attend these schools typically receive a license, certificate, or associate degree.

School Characteristics to Consider
Four-year vs. Two-year Schools
Students who attend four-year colleges such as universities or liberal arts schools will graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Students who attend two-year schools such as community colleges and vocational or technical colleges will graduate with a certificate or an associate degree. The Promise scholarship can be used at both types of schools if they are accredited in the state of Pennsylvania.

Public vs. Private
Public schools receive funding from local and/or state governments, which usually results in lower tuition rates, particularly for in-state students. However, private colleges may have access to private funding that permits them to offer generous financial aid packages. Prospective students shouldn’t base decisions solely off sticker price—a school that costs more at first glance could actually be more affordable depending on your individual circumstances. The Promise scholarship can be used at both public and private schools in Pennsylvania.

Non-profit vs. For-profit
Most US colleges and universities were non-profit institutions up through the 1970s. Since then, for-profit schools increased in number and size. Several economic studies have demonstrated a dubious return on investment for students who enrolled in for-profit schools, and such students are more likely to default on their student loans, which has made for-profits a target of increased scrutiny from the government. However, there are some advocates who believe that for-profit schools expand student choice and have the potential to operate more efficiently because of the profit motive. Students considering for-profit schools are well-advised to do extensive research on the school and speak with currently enrolled students or graduates before making a final decision. The Promise scholarship can be used at both non-profit and for-profit schools that meet the eligibility requirement to be accredited in the state of Pennsylvania.

Accommodation of IEPs and 504 Plans
A number of governmental initiatives and court rulings have greatly expanded the educational opportunities available to students with both physical and learning disabilities. High school students with an IEP or 504 Plan can expect help from their teachers and counselors to identify schools of interest and plan for post-secondary education. Many post-secondary schools strive to offer resources for students with any type of special need, ranging from additional exam time and alternative formats, study skills help, life skill development opportunities, and more. These efforts to increase access to higher education is evident in the enrollment rates of students with physical disabilities, who account for 11% of undergraduates enrolled nationwide according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The Promise scholarship will cover schools that offer programs for any disability if the school is accredited in Pennsylvania and accepts FAFSA and PHEAA funding toward enrollment in that program.

Specialized Schools
Many schools have offerings catered to specific populations or interests. For instance, there are single-sex schools that are open to only men or only women. Religiously affiliated schools are also specialized schools, though they may not be restricted to only those who practice the religion that the school is associated with. Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) focus on educating African American students and Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) receive their designation when at least 25% of the full-time undergraduate students are Hispanic. Arts colleges, agricultural programs, and nursing schools are other examples of specialized schools.

Check out these websites to further explore your options:
College Board
Technical and Vocational School Guide
U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard

Read the full fall issue to hear from several current Promise Scholars about how they evaluated the options available to them to choose their current program.