Amid the widest recorded earnings gap between college graduates and everyone else, community colleges exist as an alternative to costly four-year institutions–and it may especially appeal to those undecided about their career.

Two-year colleges offer students an opportunity to “sample or try on introductory career courses,” said Mike McCracken, a counselor for California’s Victor Valley College (VVC), one of two High Desert community colleges, along with Barstow Community College (BCC).

While many college graduates have floundered trying to find well-paying jobs in a recovering economy, few experts believe the solution is to send more students to four-year colleges, the Associated Press reports. In fact, because four in every 10 college students drop out before graduating, “often with debt loads they will struggle to repay without a degree,” labor economists suggest they might benefit more from obtaining skills.

“Over 99 percent of the job growth during the economic recovery has gone to workers with more than a high school diploma,” VVC Executive Vice President of Instruction and Student Services Peter Maphumulo said. “So, a college credential is now a minimum requirement for anyone who wants to earn a decent living.”

“When we started our educational system and we guaranteed a K-12 education, that was enough, you could get a good job with a high school education,” said Barstow Community College Superintendent/President Dr. Deborah DiThomas. “Not now.”

(Next page: Jobs that require postsecondary education are increasing)

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