Trade schools, like Ranken Technical College which has a campus in Wentzville, are providing valuable alternatives to traditional, four-year colleges

By Brett Auten

For some, college doesn’t make sense.

With the amount of debt many young Americans take on to chase coveted and parent-pleasing bachelor’s degrees, some feel that the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.

There is $1.5 trillion in student debt outstanding as of 2018, according to the Federal Reserve. And according to the Pew Research Center, four in 10 adults under the age of 30 have student-loan debt. Advanced degrees, such as master’s and doctorate degrees often lead to even more debt.

Vocational and technical education tends to cost significantly less than a traditional four-year degree and with manufacturing, infrastructure, and transportation fields are all expected to grow in the coming years – and many of those jobs likely not requiring a four-year degree – here is where trade schools have found their niche.

Ranken Technical College has served the region for more than 100 years in providing both education and training in an array of technical disciplines. The Wentzville campus, located at 755 Parr Rd., became the site of the college’s second location in spring 2013. Ranken Wentzville classes are a combination of hands-on technical training and general education, with many of its general education courses offered in an online format. Courses are offered in both day and evening, with degree and certificate options available. Ranken Wentzville offers programs in:

Advanced Manufacturing
Automotive Maintenance
Building Systems Engineering Technology
Diesel Technology
Electrical Automation Technology
Information Technology
Bachelor’s degree in Applied Management
Application Web Development

It is a far cry from the first year when there were just four programs offered to the first set of students in 2013.

“We have had an increase in the number of students each year,” Shannon Bruggemann, the Dean of Academic Affairs and the Director of the Wentzville campus said. “Things are very hands-on here. We feel that you learn best by doing.”

According to a 2019 article in The Atlantic, traditional-college enrollment rates in the United States have risen this century, from 13.2 million students enrolled in 2000 to 16.9 million students in 2016. This is an increase of 28 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Meanwhile, trade-school enrollment has also grown, from 9.6 million students in 1999 to 16 million in 2014. This resurgence came after a decline in vocational education in the 1980s and throughout the 1990s.

If students are exposed to the possibility of vocational training early on, that might help remove some of the stigma and help students and parents alike see a variety of paths to a successful future.

“High schools are always going to push the four-year degrees,” Bruggemann said. “But we have continued to see inclusive in local career centers and have been part of Wentzville’s STEM night. These STEM careers are for everyone and can lead to really good jobs. A lot of parents do not see trades as a career but anyway we can, we are trying to change that mindset.”

For more information on the Wentzville location, contact call at (855) RANKENW or via email at wentzvilleadmissions@ranken.edu.

Photo provided by Ranken Technical College Ranken Technical College has served the region for more than 100 years in providing education and training in a variety of technical disciplines. The Wentzville campus, located at 755 Parr Rd, became the site of the College’s second location in spring 2013.