Jennifer Fuerst, Student Recruitment Specialist at Fox Valley Technical College, speaks to high school students and adult students exploring higher education options.
Interview with Jennifer Fuerst
Student Recruitment Specialist
Fox Valley Technical College (7:47)
Announcer: This is Making Futures; helping individuals discover their passion and fulfill their potential.
Interviewer: Today I'll be speaking with Jennifer Fuerst, Student Recruitment Specialist at Fox Valley Technical College and we'll be addressing the questions "Is technical college right for you?" Speaking to high school students considering postsecondary education, what type of students should consider technical college education?
Jennifer: Personally I think it's something that any high school student can, and should, consider. You know, it's inexpensive; it's an easy way for students to stay close to home and save a lot of money. They also get in and get out within two to two and a half years and can get into the workforce a lot faster. The advantage to that is, in a lot of cases, they can go and get a job after two or two and a half years and be working full-time, and then they can transfer their credits and in a lot of cases their employer may pay for them to get their bachelor's degree if they require them to have it, or want them to further their education.
Interviewer: That sounds like a good incentive. Does the decision depend on what your career goal is?
Jennifer: Of course, I think any life decision, you know, depends on what your goal is. You know, you need to consider what, what your future goals are. But at the same time if your goal is to be a doctor, there's still an option to start at a technical college. Every degree requires some sort of general education courses at a four-year university and we can offer those for students and those will transfer. So in a lot of cases, we have agreements where they could possibly start out as a sophomore at some of the UW's or even the private colleges.
Interviewer: What do you say to students who don't know what career they want to pursue? How do tech colleges help those students find their career passion?
Jennifer: Typically what I tell them is that, we have career development workshops that they can sign up for, and those are a great exploration of your interest and your skills and then you get to meet with a counselor, and that helps you determine what would be a good fit for you. I actually went through those classes myself, and, I know it sounds cheesy, but it actually changed my life and set me in a more clear direction of what would be a good fit for me as far as my career went.
Interviewer: That sounds really helpful. Does the technical college benefit certain learning styles?
Jennifer: It does. The…probably the biggest advantage is technical college is all about hands-on training. We don't focus as much on the theory that you learn at the four-year universities. And obviously I'm not discrediting any higher education; the more education you have the better off you're going to be. But here, everything we teach you, you will actually do. Which, in a lot of cases, I think most people learn better from that hands-on experience. Also, a huge advantage is that we have very small class sizes. When you're looking at your core program classes, typically the max is going to be about 15, depending on what you're studying. But the advantage there is that you're getting a lot of personal attention from your instructor. Another advantage is the instructors, they're actually required to be professionals in industry prior to teaching here, so you're actually learning from somebody who's been a nurse or been a diesel mechanic, and depending on what field you're going into.
Interviewer: So some students who may not have responded well in a high school environment could, it could be quite different for them in a technical college.
Jennifer: Definitely! And especially because you're choosing what you're going to school here for and you're not having to take as many general education courses. In an average associates degree, you're probably taking 20 to 27 credits of general education courses, and in most cases those are applied to what your program is.
Interviewer: Are there some myths about technical colleges that you would like to address?
Jennifer: Definitely! That's a great question! Probably one of the misnomers is that we're not a real college. We are definitely a real college, our graduates are very competitive with four-year graduates as far as earnings and job placement goes. And a lot of the four-year graduates are even coming back to the technical colleges to get some hands-on skills. You know, every employer is looking for experience, but how do you get experience if nobody will hire you, and the technical college is a really good way to do that. Another myth is that we're second rate education; definitely not the case. You know, a lot of parents say 'You get what you pay for.' Well that's definitely not the case with the technical college system. Our credits are less expensive but that's because we're tax funded. Our credits also do transfer and those agreements have gotten much better over the last couple of years, so again, students could start out here and take just their general education courses or they could take an entire program and still transfer. A lot of the technical colleges have agreements with UW's and private colleges so that students know exactly what they're getting into before they even start their education with a technical college. I guess another myth - there's quite a few that I'd like to crash - that a technical college is for students that can't get into a real college. Again, we see more and more students coming to the technical college now that some of those myths are being crashed, so…and another myth is that they lead to dead end jobs, and again, our graduates are very competitive in the field with the four-year graduates. In fact, our nursing students, that have a two-year degree from a technical college, take the same exact state licensure test that a student that goes to a UW college takes, and in a lot of cases they're passing at higher rates on their first try than four-year university students because, again, of the hands-on training.
Interviewer: Thanks for pointing that out. What about adult students? In what ways is technical college right for them?
Jennifer: I think adult students are a perfect fit for a technical college. I mean--it's fast. They get in, they get out, and they get into the workforce faster. A lot of those returning adults, they've been laid off from their jobs, and they have a lot of other life things that they're juggling around, such as families so they have to fit all of that into their schedule. So it's nice, we're very flexible; they can take online classes. Close to home, that's another thing. And again, it's affordable.
Interviewer: It sounds like the answer to our question "Is tech college right for you?" would be it's right for almost anyone.
Jennifer: I agree, definitely. I actually am a graduate of Fox Valley Technical College and I would not go back and change that for anything. I absolutely loved the experience that I had here. And the funny thing about that is, my mom actually told me that I shouldn't go to Fox Valley Tech because it wasn't a real college, and it's nice now because she sees what kind of education I got and she goes out and gives my business card out to everybody that she talks to.
Interviewer: That's a great endorsement! Thank you very much Jennifer. Are there any last, parting words of advice that you want to give?
Jennifer: Well I think the best piece of advice I give to any student that I talk to is, no matter what you're interested in make sure that you figure out what your goals are, and don't pursue something based on money alone or what your parents are pushing you into or, you know, you need to choose what's best for you, and if you follow your dreams and pursue something that you really love, you're never going to have to work a day in your life.
Interviewer: Good summary. Thank you very much Jennifer. I've been speaking with Jennifer Fuerst, Student Recruitment Specialist at Fox Valley Technical College.
Announcer: Making Futures is a presentation of Wisconsin's 16 Technical Colleges. Thanks for listening.