educationstaff, utahvalley360.com

Next time you’re around the barbecue grill talking about the good ol’ college days with the boys, don’t assume your buddies bleed Cougar blue or Ute Red.

During the 1990s, Utah’s 10 traditional colleges (nine state-sponsored schools plus BYU) graduated an average of 25,000 students per year.

Within that same time frame, approximately 18,000 per year earned college degrees, finished career programs or earned technical certifications at proprietary schools within our state.

For many, the decision of where to go for higher education comes down to convenience.

Graduates from schools such as Stevens-Henegar, University of Phoenix or Provo College are usually able to earn their degrees faster than they would at a traditional college.

Local schools say their students complete a bachelor’s degree in just two or three years. And because “time is money,” thousands prefer to put their higher education on the fast-track, including Derk Lovell, age 45.

Lovell spent nearly 22 years in the finance industry when his company was being acquired by an out-of-state organization.

“When it was clear that the incidental changes were going to adversely affect me, I began considering various avenues, most of which involved additional education,” Lovell says.

After considering several options, he chose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Stevens-Henager College in Provo. He believes he’ll complete this degree in less time and money than a master’s degree would take from several other schools he was considering.

“With the small class sizes and very helpful and concerned staff, my learning experience at the college has been wonderful,” Lovell says.

The accelerated program worked for Lovell, but not everyone can be a full-time student. Depending on the school, different programs are offered to fit each individual’s time constraints. One of the specialties of propriertary schools is the flexibility they offer their students.

Another advantage is that standards for entrance are generally more basic than a traditional college or university. Working professionals enjoy the flexibility of taking night classes, lunch-time courses and weekend offerings.

Many higher education opportunities in Utah County also include online courses, tests and tips, making studying an ideal “on-your-own-time” situation. Some schools also offer credits for prior work experience. The key is to investigate several schools to find the one that meets your particular needs.

Lovell was concerned with credit transfers from previous college experiences.

“Stevens-Henager allowed a generous transfer of credits from my previous college degree, with a minimal cost for credit transfer,” Lovell says.

The average age of a proprietary college student in Utah is 30, which is a plus for some who dread taking college classes at BYU or UVSC with their daughter’s 18-year-old friends.

Another advantage to getting a degree from a business college is the job placement assistance.

Graduates and alumni benefit from strong relationships the colleges have with employers in the community, such as Novell, Intel and Symantec. Classes are usually taught by individuals who work within the industry they are instructing in.

Yet another advantage is the small teacher-student ratio. Proprietary colleges average 25 students per class, while general education classes at traditional schools often have hundreds of students in the same classroom.

So if you can’t get in to BYU Provo … or Hawaii … or Idaho, you’ve got some options in Utah Valley. Sure, you won’t have an athletic team to cheer for, but don’t worry. The Cougar football ushers don’t check education credentials at the gate.

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