Jacob Slaton

Orlando Aguillon

 También puedes leer este artículo en español, Trabajar para Aprender, Aprender para Trabajar.

By the time young people are preparing to graduate from high school, they have most likely begun to develop career plans or have an idea of how they want to make a living.

Often that means pursuing some form of continued education.

A college diploma can show potential employers the ability to complete tasks, while the university experience offers extracurriculars that look good on a resume, as well as a chance to form connections that could pay off later.

But colleges, even two-year schools offering associate degrees, are expensive.

According to ontocollege.com, in-state tuition for a four-year public school in Arkansas in 2020-2021 was $18,262, $24,998 for private schools and $3,484 for two-year colleges.

Financial considerations are a primary reason why many students in the U.S. do not complete a four-year degree. According to a Pew Research study, 71% of Hispanics said they needed to work to support their families (compared to 66% of African Americans and 49% of whites), 69% said they couldn’t afford a four-year school and 42% didn’t think they could get in.

Trade schools and other job training programs offer a quicker, more affordable path to a well-paying career and are often seen as an alternative to college in a booming, high-tech economy. 

Whichever path a student considers, Springdale School District is an example of secondary schools’ focus on workforce development and continuing education. Through College and Career Readiness (CCR) and Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG)  programs, Springdale works to align aptitudes and interests with career paths that include full- or part-time employment or post-secondary education. 

Through aptitude tests, career interest surveys, resume building, business and industry partnerships, field trips, curriculum credit opportunities and more, Springdale presents students with opportunities beyond the usual fast food and retail options. 

Workforce Training Director Rodney Ellis noted bilingual students bring added value to the workplace. 

“Utilizing these strategies, Hispanic juniors and seniors have more opportunities in the workforce in today's economic climate in an entry-level position, which can lead into a career track they have received training in,” Ellis said. 

For 15 years, Fayetteville’s Kimbel Mechanical Systems has had a plumbing apprenticeship program and is implementing an electrician apprenticeship program. Through its Northwest Arkansas Mechanical School (NWAMech) Kimbel hires new workers and teaches them skills while they earn a paycheck, keeping both the student and Kimbel from paying tuition at a trade school.

The program's cost is taken out of the employee’s paycheck in monthly installments, on-the-job training is done by day and code education at night. In the end, employees have the confidence and knowledge to pass trade examinations, said Kimbel's Beth Barclay.

Hopefully, the trained employees remain for at least a year, thus having their tuition reimbursed. But the program has good word of mouth and a pipeline to more potential workers thanks to networking, especially in the Hispanic community. 

“I don’t know if you see this in other industries, but specifically with our Spanish-speaking population, if a couple of them come here and have some success they know a couple that know a couple people that know a couple people,” Barclay said. “Once they get here and see, ‘Hey, they do treat me right,’ then we have a wider network of referrals.”


Average annual tuition for all higher education institutions in the U.S. in 2020-2021

Average annual tuition for a public four-year college in 2020-2021

Average Annual tuition for a private four-year college in 2020-2021

of Latinos say they must work to support a family

of Latinos say they can’t afford a four-year degree

3.14 million
Hispanic undergraduates enrolled in nonprofit, post-secondary institutions in fall of 2021

4 million
Projected Hispanic enrollment in higher education by 2026

Sources: ontocollege.com, Pew Research Center, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities