Options Beyond a Four-Year Degree



Attending university after high school has become the norm in today’s society due to the belief that having a bachelor’s degree or higher guarantees a well-paying job, and that people without a degree are more likely to struggle financially. Although university enrollment has increased over the years, only 26% of Black people have obtained a bachelor’s degree. In the workforce, Black people have a history of facing discrimination and often receive low wages and unstable employment. Black women have been historically hired for agriculture and domestic service work, are excluded from professional settings, and face difficulties in advancing in their careers and receiving leadership positions due to misogynoir.


An issue with attending university is the high cost in tuition and the amount of loans many students have to take out. Many Black students drop out of university because they lack the resources needed to succeed and can’t afford their college expenses. Compared to other borrowers, Black women have the most debt after finishing their undergraduate education, with an average of $37,558. There are many alternatives to traditional education that can be a pathway to success.


For instance, starting a business is a way for people to do what they love and be their own boss. This choice is risky because it requires a lot of time, money, sacrifice and doesn’t guarantee success. For a business to be successful, it requires releasing a product and/or service that is innovative, trendy or practical, being able to adapt to changing situations, analyzing competitors, having a good marketing strategy, selecting a specific target audience, and finding a reason as to why the business is necessary.


Attending community college is a less expensive alternative to attending a traditional college. For those students who want a bachelor’s degree, many four-year universities allow students to transfer credits earned at community colleges toward a bachelor’s degree. Alternatively, students can attend community college to earn an associate degree, which normally takes about two years or less to complete. An associate degree provides students with introductory courses about a certain subject or field. Another option is to attend community college to earn certifications, which demonstrate competency in a certain area, providing students with a competitive advantage and more job opportunities.




Attending trade school is another fast way to gain skills to prepare people for a specific occupation. Students have to already have an occupation in mind, although not all occupations allow qualifications to be obtained through trade school. Unlike traditional college, people can finish their program in a shorter time, ranging from a few months to two years. However, they do not receive a bachelor’s degree but instead they will receive an alternative diploma or a certification. Many people choose to attend trade school over university because it saves them time and helps them progress in their careers faster.


Additionally, online classes from websites such as Udemy, and Coursera are open to anyone who wants to learn new skills or topics that interest them. Although they do not offer college degrees, they do offer course certificates as a way for people to obtain knowledge without owing any student loans.


Ultimately, traditional college isn’t for everyone and people should do what feels right for them without feeling pressured to follow the norm. Earning a bachelor’s degree or higher does not guarantee career advancement; people with the right skill sets, knowledge and experience can be just as successful in their careers.

Forging the path to career success doesn’t have to entail attending a traditional college and receiving a bachelor’s degree; seeking out alternatives may be more financially feasible. For Black women interested in pursuing a college degree, but lack the resources to succeed, The Prosp(a)rity Project helps provide financial assistance and guidance.

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