Whether Public Or Private: The Pros And Cons Of Vocational High School Programs

Some parents freak out when their kids express an interest in switching from a college-prep high school to a vocational school. Before moms and dads get upset or feel they've failed somehow, they must realistically weigh the pros and cons of sending their child to a vocational school.

What's good about vocational high school?

It's a stepping stone to college, too.

If parents are honest, they may admit that they wonder what other people will think about their child's choice to attend a vocational or technical high school. That track is for kids who aren't sharp enough for college, right?

Wrong. Recent studies show that 80% of vocational students go on to study at college or university. The truth is, many of the skills taught in vocational and technical schools give students an advantage and a real future.  Everyone needs problem-solving talent and technical know-how to advance in higher education and in the workforce today.

Vocational students graduate ready to earn.

A typical high-end private school education costs more than $40,000 a year, about the same as tuition at the best private universities. But a private high school diploma isn't necessarily the ticket to a great job. The private college-prep student must earn more academic credentials to land a job that will earn them a decent and reliable income.

Students from some vocational programs earn over $40,000 a year straight out of high school. They have no student loans, yet they have enough income to invest in higher education and support themselves when the time is right.

What's not so good about vocational high school?

There's a shortage of private investment.

There aren't enough private vocational schools, for one thing. There are some students who don't do well in public school settings but who do benefit from smaller class sizes and more one-on-one engagement with professors. Some private educators are noticing the success of public school vocational programs, and they are developing more magnet and charter schools to meet the needs of students who require more support than a public vocational school can offer.

Businesses already support private schools by providing scholarships to deserving students. The hope is that these same industry leaders will develop private school concepts that address the critical need to train experts in manufacturing, energy, and robotics.

There is a lack of variety in some areas of study.

Many vocational schools lack music and art programs. Foreign language study may not be available in a vocational school setting. Subjects including history, social studies, and literature may be limited in scope and not taught with as much depth as parents or students might desire.

There are extra expenses.

Many private and public vocational schools require specific uniforms or lab wear for their areas of study. Coveralls, work pants, and nursing wear must meet strict requirements and often must be purchased through the school.

There will be additional expenses for tools, footwear, and field trips. Some vocational classes meet off-campus at local shops, hospitals, or plants, so there may be additional transportation costs involved for students of some subjects.

Vocational high school is the best answer for young people who are absolutely certain about what they want to do for a living in the next few years. If your child isn't sure about a career path yet, find private school options that let students practice working skills while still preparing students for higher education. In the future, more private schools will cater to vocation-minded students, but only if students and parents let private schools know that's the kind of educational opportunity they want.