Where to Go to School
Types of Higher Education Programs
Universities, colleges, community colleges, online colleges, vocational schools – these are just a few of the types of educational institutions open to students looking to continue their education beyond high school. But what differentiates one from another and how important is the choice you make?
The Official Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education provides an exhaustive guide to the requirements and characteristics of each college and university they have profiled. The Carnegie Classification orders accredited institutions of higher education by undergraduate and graduate programs; enrollment profiles; and size and setting classification. Once you've decides on the type of program you're looking for the Carnegie Classification guide can help you match that program to the right university or college.
Universities can be either publicly funded or privately funded institutions. The term 'university' is often used interchangeably with the term 'college' but this is a misnomer. Colleges are not universities, although all universities have colleges within them. For instance, if you are an English major attending a university you would be a student of that university's College of Liberal Arts though you would be ultimately graduated from said university.
By definition a university often grants degrees beyond the baccalaureate, or bachelors—most confer Masters and Doctorates as well.
Public universities are state-funded and designed to provide an affordable education for residents of that state. Public universities must adhere to very strict regulations to ensure that all students receive equal treatment.
Private universities, on the other hand, function independently from public sources and thrive on financial endowments from individuals, organizations and corporations. Examples of prominent private universities are Yale and Harvard. As expensive as many of the elite universities have been in years past most have made available financial aid programs for disadvantaged students.
Four-Year Colleges: Liberal Arts Education
While many four year colleges and universities are privately funded most American universities and colleges are funded by state revenue, alumni donations and annual tuition fees. State university programs are the most common and accessible forms of higher education institutions in America and for most students will comprise the bulk of their college experience.
The four-year college experience defines the Liberal Arts education—a fully rounded and well-balanced educational "diet" that includes arts, sciences, mathematics and athletics. Students in liberal arts programs emphasize a major field of study, but are required to complete coursework in all the major disciplines. Students graduating from a four year college typically earn a baccalaureate or bachelors degree in either the arts or the sciences.
Students wishing to earn their masters degree or a PhD will go on to graduate school to further their education in their chosen field. Some public four year college do offer graduate programs though in many cases this may mean ultimately transferring to a private college or university.
Community Colleges have come a long way in the last few decades. Community Colleges have made higher education more accessible to students from all walks of life and are often an affordable springboard for students ultimately heading for a four year university. Community colleges offer students:
- Standalone two-year degree programs that lead to Associates degrees.
- The ability to transfer earned credits allows students to complete two years of an undergraduate degree then transfer to a four-year liberal arts college to complete the final two years of a traditional Bachelors degree.
- Continuing education and professional certification programs for working adults and professionals that will make them more competitive and successful in the workforce.
Trade Schools are unique from either a college or university in that they provide specific training in vocational skills. In the past students primarily attended trade schools for agricultural and automotive programs. However, there is a renewed vigor in the trade and vocational school realm and they have grown to encompass training courses in any number of diverse subjects . For example, here are some popular trade school programs that prepare students for top paying jobs:
- Culinary/Cooking school
- Art school
If a Liberal Arts degree at a four year college or university is not for you a Trade School or Vocational School may be the perfect avenue for your successful integration into the modern workforce.
Online Degrees: Distance Learning
The advent of the internet has made long distance learning a modern reality. The scope and quality of online education programs continues to improve and many are now considered equal to their brick and mortar counterparts. Online degrees, once the exclusive province of online universities, are now being offered by many traditional colleges, universities and community colleges.
The advantages of online study benefits both students and institutions. Students with jobs and families can earn degrees from the comfort of their own homes while institutions can expand their student bodies by offering distance learning degrees and courses similar to those they provide on campus.
Online learning is not for everyone and some students benefit from the structure of a traditional classroom environment. Fully investigate any online courses in which you may be interested to learn all you can about costs, technical requirements and types of degrees offered. Also be certain that any online university you are considering is accredited.
International studies programs are a remarkable opportunity for students from all disciplines to gain exposure to other cultures while advancing their college studies. As the modern world becomes more globalized many universities and colleges encourage students to venture abroad as part of a well balanced college education.
International study programs, more commonly called Study Abroad programs, are thriving on many college and university campuses across America. Participating students may opt to study singly or in groups in a vast number of fascinating foreign countries. Beyond the more familiar European destinations eligible students can enjoy the enriching experience of studying in such diverse locations as Thailand, Japan or Morocco.
The are a number of grants and scholarships promoting study abroad programs sponsored by both the Federal government and the private sector. The most well known study abroad scholarships are undoubtedly the Fulbright and the Rhodes Scholarships, both of which have a long history of encouraging education and enlightenment through travel. With the increased availability of financial aid programs for study abroad programs you too may be able to make your dreams of pursuing your college studies in an exotic foreign country a reality.