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Inside Great tips for preparing for college entrance exams
rom brushing up on interview skills to honing the perfect essay, the college admissions process seems to become more complicated every year. While students in the past may have prepared for one standardized admissions test, now some experts now advise taking both the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the American College Test (ACT). “The ACT may have once played second fiddle to the SAT. But the test is gaining momentum and popularity with college admissions officers,” says Chris Arp, a tutor at Veritas Tutors and Test Prep and author of “Up Your Score ACT,” a new test-prep study guide. While the SAT was designed to judge a student’s ability to reason, the ACT was designed to determine a student’s knowledge of the basic high school curriculum. Arp, who wrote “Up Your Score ACT” in conjunction with three students with perfect ACT scores, offers these tips to test-takers: • Take a practice test of both the SAT and the ACT, timed, in a setting that allows you to concentrate for three-plus hours. If you score much higher on one, then take that test. If the scores are similar, Arp says to consider this: “Which test made you want to pull out a smaller percentage of your hair?” • Make a manageable schedule, breaking preparation into chunks. But remember, the actual test is long, so
building endurance is crucial. Ramp up your practice sessions until you can take the whole test in one sitting. • Practice makes perfect. Take several practice tests at home and learn from both your successes and mistakes. Remember, you can take the ACT up to 12 times if you need to. And unlike the SAT, you can choose which scores are sent to colleges. • “When it comes to math, don’t sell yourself short,” says Arp. “Saying you don’t understand math is a cop-out. If you can’t solve a math problem, it’s because you have either forgotten or never learned the concepts involved.” • On the reading section of college entrance exams, check your outside knowledge at the door. You are being tested on what a passage says, not on what you already know. • Picking your battles can help you make the most of your limited time. For example, in the case of the ACT’s Science Reasoning Test, glancing at a passage before you dive into it can help you decide whether you want to spend time on it now or later. • To avoid post-test stress, don’t discuss the answers with your friends. Instead, take a few days to relax and have fun. Both the SAT and ACT are accepted by every college in America. So if you’re stressed out by the SAT, do yourself a favor and consider taking a different route.
Planning ahead: Focus on the costs and resources when considering higher education...............6 Online education: What to expect and the advantages and disadvantages.......................................8 Student profiles: Diverse programs help Bay Area students succeed............................................10 Trade schools: Education preps students with specialized programs and skills....................................14
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Foothill College is here for you; classes start Sept. 23
ou get everyone else ready to head Back to School, but what about you? This is a great time to think about returning to school to start a new career, enhance the one you have or finish the degree you started. Foothill College offers certificates and degrees you can earn part-time while fulfilling your other responsibilities, like work and family. Whether you want to transfer to a four-year institution, get your associate degree or complete a career certificate, Foothill College can help you reach your goal – and much sooner than you might expect. Complete your associate degree in 24 months or less; earn a new career certificate in as few as 6 – 18 months, from instructors with advanced degrees who have work experience in the fields they teach. For more than 56 years, Foothill College has been committed to meeting the changing needs of its students. With day, evening or online classes, financial aid options, and friendly support services, we are here to help you succeed. Check out our fall schedule at www.foothill.edu. Register now for best course selection; classes are filling up fast. Fall Quarter classes run Sept. 23 – Dec. 13.
LeaDerS In HIgHer eDucatIon Since offering the first online class for a California Community College in 1994, Foothill College has set itself apart as a leader in higher education. Today we offer Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) courses in emerging fields like green chemistry and nanotechnology. We have upgraded our Computer Science Department to meet the needs of university transfer students, new IT systems administrators and experienced Information and Communications Technology (ICT) professionals with our Cisco Certification and Enterprise Networking programs. Students who have successfully completed the Foothill College Dental Hygiene, Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Pharmacy Technician, Respiratory Therapy, Radiologic Technology and Veterinary Technology programs have scored 100-percent pass rates on their licensing board exams, with average pass rates between 87 to 96 – far exceeding the national average. tHe cLaSSeS You neeD With 65 programs and offering nearly 800 courses per quarter, Foothill has high-demand classes that you need in subjects like English, accounting, art, business, chemistry, computer science, engineering, history, math, physics and the sciences. For core classes like ENGL 1A and 1B, we’ll open new sections to ensure that students have access when classes fill up. Most Foothill College courses are transferable to California State University and University of California campuses, as well as private colleges and universities. We are accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), Western Association of Schools and Colleges. This organization is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education. Advertorial provided by Foothill College
regISter onLIne now It’s easy to register for classes at Foothill College. Review the searchable class schedule and registration instructions online at www. foothill.edu. California residents pay just $31 per unit plus basic fees. You can pay your fees, buy a parking permit, purchase your textbooks and conduct a variety of student transactions at www.foothill.edu. register now. Fall Quarter starts Sept. 23.
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It’s never too early to start considering your college costs and financial aid needs By Monica Lander
ids grow too fast, a college education is expensive and the time to start planning and saving for college was yesterday. Navigating the streams of financial aid programs, savings plans and the resources available to take that leap to higher education can be daunting, but there is a wealth of resources out there to help. According to David Beck, certified financial planner who works with families through College Connections, the ticket price for tuition and room and board at a fouryear college varies but can typically amount to about $21,000 for a California State University; about $30,000 for a University of California school; around $45,000 for private East Coast university and, for those elite schools like Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, you can expect to see the price around $60,000. Tuition is what colleges charge for the instruction
they provide and can sometimes vary within a college or university depending on the major area of study. Fees are those costs that seem small but do add up. They can include lab fees, parking fees, student government, ID cards, health insurance, recreation facility usage fee, graduation expenses, studio usage fees, computer access fees and even more. These numbers, however, don’t reflect the annual tuition increases as colleges try to keep in step with and in front of the latest technology, libraries and labs, not to mention recreation centers and athletic facilities and attractive salaries to attract a top-of-the-line faculty. Student fee rates for the California State University system increased 20.9 percent from the 2010-2011 school year to the 2011-2012 school year. According to the College Board, the average 2012-2013 tuition increase was 4.2 percent at private colleges and 4.8 percent at pubic universities. The ten-year historical rate of increase is about six percent. But that’s not the end of the story.
There are other costs to consider. On-campus housing and meal plans at four-year public schools averaged $9,205 to $10,462 at private schools, according CollegeBoard.org. Then there are the textbooks and school supplies like printer ink, notebooks, printed class materials and a laptop. The College Board reports the average cost for books and supplies was about $1,240 for last year. It’s the personal and transportation costs that can vary widely, whether a student has a car on campus and has to pay parking fees and car insurance, pay for a bus pass, entertainment, late night pizzas, college athletic games, even airline tickets or gas money to come home once in a while. The College Board estimates costs in this category to range from $2,527 to $3,200. Find out about the true cost of attending a particular college or university by accessing the online Net Price Calculator. A very useful tool, says Beck, the NPC will estimate the total cost of one year of a college education for a first-time, full-time undergraduate.
Other calculators include the College Board calculator and the Student Aid Services calculator. Says Beck, “every college has its NPC on its website and some take into account the students academic standing in addition to just the income and tax information provided on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA.” Saving for college Planning ahead for college costs can never begin too early, says Financial Planner Scott Sprague of Sprague Wealth Solutions in San Ramon. He calls the 529 Plan, the “perennial vehicle for college saving” short of purchasing that winning lottery ticket. Created in 1996 and named after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code which created these types of savings plans, the 529 Plan is a sure way to grow a tax-deferred investment for college tuition. Many of the 529 Plans are designed to follow a money management strategy that changes as your child grows, explains Sprague. For example, when a child is under two years old, the investment strategy is more
aggressive and ratchets down toward more conservative investments automatically as the child grows until college is just around the corner. A 529 Plan is also an effective vehicle to allow grandparents and other relatives to start making contributions or “monetary gifts” to the student without triggering gift taxes. Because there are no income limitations or age restrictions for a 529 Plan, this is also a good plan should an older student or adult plan to go back to school or graduate school in the future. Beck adds that he works with families “to educate them on how college financing works and how it works for them in their particular situation.” Many families, he adds, “have no idea the cost of college or and amount of financial aid available to them.” How long will they spend in college? Another point to consider when selecting a college is its graduation rate. Can a student graduate in four years or will he/she need five years? Says Beck, “not only is the family paying another year of tuition, they are also
foregoing a year or two of earning potential. The cost of that extra year may be more expensive than you think.” Ellen Fisher, private college consultant, also assists families with the college application process and search for financial aid. Helping students from all over the Bay Area and nationally, Fisher has worked for 10 years and suggests parents start saving for their children’s college education the day the children are born. If saving for college wasn’t in the budget, Fisher says the key to financing college is creating a list of the “right” schools with the “right” options. “One of the huge benefits of hiring a college education consultant,” says Fisher, is his or her ability to help the student compile this “right” list of schools which do not always include the “popular” schools, but are some hidden gems in the academic world. This list would include colleges that are “likely” or “possible” for the student with the high potential of options for merit funding. Paying for college does have a happy ending if the necessary steps are taken to plan and navigate the right path for your family.
The California State University system offers State University Grants for California residents. These grants are based on need and the annual funding available.
is one way to meet college expenses. Loans, however, have to be repaid and interest rates and repayment terms vary depending on the type of loan.
Scholarships Colleges, college departments, organizations or private companies offer a multitude of scholarships to students who meet the specific criteria. There are scholarships for athletes, students who want to study physics, education, and just about every subject. Scholarships are awarded on merit, need or both and do not have to be paid back.
resources David Beck, Certified Financial Planner, College Connections, 408.460.5241, www.college-connections.com.
Loans Borrowing money today to pay for college expenses
Ellen Fisher, Independent College Consultant, 415.420.0541, www.college4u.info.
Financial aid Financial aid comes in many forms and it would be helpful and wise to consider applying for a variety of aid to cover the expenses of a four-year college education. The California State University system outlines several forms of financial aid for its students. The following information was compiled the California State University and University of California websites. For a full list and information about the various forms of financial aid available from public and private schools, visit the schools’ websites or start your search at www.bigfuture.collegeboard.org, www.nces. ed.gov or www.collegeboard.org. Grants A grant is gift assistance to students and is one opportunity available to both undergraduate and graduate students. Grants pay for educational expenses and do not have to paid back. Some grants are awarded based on either financial need, academic achievement or merit or, sometimes, both. Grants usually have specific requirements and application deadlines. The University of California offers Federal Pell Grants, need-based grants for low-income undergraduates, Cal Grants funded by the state of California, and need-based UC grants that cover some, but not all of the cost of attending a University of California.
Scott Sprague, Certified Financial Planner, Sprague Wealth Solutions, San Ramon, 925.328.0400, www.swsllc.net. Securities and advisory services offered through Cetera Advisor Networks LLC.
Is online education right for you? By Carole Kanchier
o you want to complete a graduate degree, GED or other specialized certification for career advancement or an art course? If so, consider online education. It’s convenient to obtain these from the comfort of your home or laptop: any time, any place. People of all ages and backgrounds are attracted to online learning. Recent high school grads, homemakers, working adults, retirees and people without access to local colleges are taking advantage of online offerings. A plethora of California educational institutions offer varied online programs. The California Virtual Campus (CVC), a statewide initiative that helps students navigate California distance learning programs, has partnered with colleges and universities to support the development of high-quality programs. The CVC (www.cvc.edu) provides
information about California higher education online programs via the CVC online course catalog (www.cvc.edu/ students/courses). Tuition fees range from $1,104 (for California Community Colleges) to $32,100 (for California Independent Colleges), based on median costs. Books and supplies are extra. Financial aid information is available at most educational institutions. As well, corporations often pay for part or all of employees’ schooling. “We want to attract and retain quality professionals,” explains an executive whose company has supported employees’ advanced education. University of California Santa Cruz Extension in Silicon Valley offers many certificate and upgrading courses for Silicon Valley professionals. Dr. Rick Ramos, Head Coordinator, Online Learning at Contra Costa College, offers potential students advice: “Online students must be self-motivated, demonstrate maturity and have time management skills. For every hour
of class they must spend three hours studying.” Advantages and disadvantages of online education Benefits: The most compelling benefits of online learning are time, money and convenience. You can enroll in a class, complete assignments on the Internet and communicate with classmates and teachers through highquality web conferencing anytime. Online degrees may be less expensive than traditional degrees because you don’t have to pay associated costs related to housing, transportation and other expenses. Online learning also offers greater flexibility than traditional education. “You can set your own pace,” offers Gladys, a student at College of San Mateo. “You can review material several times to ensure understanding, and manage emergencies without dropping a class.”
Online study is a great option for students with physical handicaps, which may inhibit travel to traditional campuses. If you’re language-challenged, participating in online courses may be a great alternative to traditional classes. Ageism is unlikely to exist. Disadvantages: You should consider how an online degree will be received by future employers. In some countries, for example, companies may feel that online academic standards are not as rigorous as traditional programs. You may not have face-to-face contact with other students. Therefore, many non-verbal aspects of communication may be missed. Working alone may be a disadvantage. If you enjoy personal attention, listening to teachers and other students and need eye contact, a traditional classroom may be a better choice. Those who prefer lectures may find online learning too active. It requires excessive involvement. Students are expected to contribute to online class discussions and participate in group projects. Some professionals question the effectiveness of online courses, especially those offered by the massive open online course (MOOC) providers. For example, San Jose State University put their MOOC project with Udacity on hold last month. Preliminary data on the spring trials of three math courses Sans Jose State built with Udacity, indicated low pass rates for the San Jose State students. A criticism is that MOOCs have been hyped by their providers, investors, politicians and the media looking for quick fixes. For more information about online education visit www.bgiedu.net. focus, THEN ACT First, decide on your desired career – examples include business, nursing and criminal justice. If you’re undecided, consider career counseling offered by online colleges. After you pinpoint your area of interest, research accredited online Continued on page 12
Contra Costa Community College District No matter where you live in the county, we have a facility near you (or within 15 minutes from you).
80 Suisun Bay Vallejo
San Pablo Bay
Contra Costa College
El Sobrante San Pablo
Richmond El Cerrito
Diablo Valley College Pleasant Hill
Walnut Creek Lafayette Moraga
Mount Diablo State Park
680 San Ramon
Los Medanos College
Find your pathway to success at the Contra Costa Community College District
San Ramon Campus
San Francisco Bay
You are only 15 minutes away from a great education at one of our colleges.
A focus on student success
hanks to the passage of Proposition 30, financial stability has been restored to the Contra Costa Community College District (District). After four years of managing through uncertainty and budget reductions, the District’s colleges – Contra Costa College, Diablo Valley College and the San Ramon Valley Campus, Los Medanos College and the Brentwood Center – are increasing course sections to help students complete their educational plan in a timely manner. Whether you are seeking to transfer to a four-year institution, obtain the training for career and technical education to qualify for good paying jobs, or complete ESL and basic skills education, we have a program that is right for you. If you have not been to one of our colleges recently, stop by and see the transformation underway thanks to the passage of the 2002 and 2006 Measure A bonds. Technology infrastructure improvements along with new and remodeled classrooms and buildings are helping to provide the education and training necessary for 21st century jobs. Now is the time to get the education you need. At $46 per unit, we are the affordable choice for quality higher education right in your own community. Stop by one of our locations and learn how we are making a difference in the lives of over 55,000 students who are choosing to attend the Contra Costa Community College District.
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Diverse educational programs in the Bay Area help students navigate varied paths to successful careers By Linnea Smith Jessup
Special sections manager
ducational choices help shape our lives, our interests, our careers. Often a lifelong interest or skill may help propel us forward to a particular job or course of study. That inspiration may come during early years of school or in high school or in the workplace. Recently the Bay Area News Group interviewed area students and professionals about the diverse paths they took and how they selected specific courses of study from a variety of educational providers. From military man to medical technician
Jason Serrano Like thousands of high school graduates, Jason Serrano enlisted in the military as soon as he graduated from high school. His four-year stint with the U.S. Air Force provided education and training which led to his becoming a facilities maintenance team chief after receiving technical training. His duties included monitoring electrical power distribution in a sensitive military facility
in Montana. Once out of the Air Force, he enrolled in a community college program. “It took me a lot longer than I thought it would,” he recalled, referring to “the scenic route” he followed, both working and going to school, then pursuing real estate. “I finally realized I needed to get a degree to really succeed,” he said. “You have to keep market demands in mind.” Focusing on a course of study in biomedical technology at DeVry University, Fremont, Serrano began merging engineering and medical skills in 2007. “I started full time and it was very difficult at first, but I wanted to take full advantage of my educational benefits” (from being in the military). For his senior project, he and a fellow student made a prototype of a medical device and presented it at a tech fair, winning all six awards offered at the event. “We felt so successful,” he related, and “we both got jobs at Stanford University Medical Center as soon as we graduated (in 2010),” he said. As a first-call responder for any requests from staff for any equipment, IT matters and computer problems, Serrano works inside the surgery center’s 12 surgical rooms, also helping medical staff prep the video systems and other equipment that will be used during the day’s scheduled surgeries, plus providing maintenance to some 30,000 pieces of equipment. “It’s IT on the clinical side of medicine, a very nontraditional role,” he noted proudly. An MBA, at last Three years ago, Christopher Anderson proudly accepted his MBA from the University of Phoenix. It was a long journey. After graduating from Davis with a design degree and over a
Christopher Anderson decade as an architect, including his own business, he never gave up on his dream of getting an MBA. “I thought a business degree would help me as an architect,” he explained, but he was married and working full time with limited free time. The desire didn’t fade, though, and “in 1992 or ’93, I took the GMAT (a practice test and tool for assessing business and management skills, and used as part of any application to a certified MBA program), because I was still wanting to go to a traditional school for the advanced degree,” he said, but life got in the way. Within a few years he was separated and living with his two children. The desire for an MBA never faded, though, and after over 15 years of running his own design studio, he also had the opportunity to take on the family business, a commercial marina in Alameda. “I knew I needed more business background,” he explained, but at this point in his life he realized that on online course of study made more sense than a brick-and-mortar school. He scrutinized online options, asked lots of questions and was satisfied that the online curriculum was the best
option for him. From the outset, in 2010, he was pleased. “These online schools were much more mainstream now. I was able to take my laptop and study and interact with the other students, even while being with my kids” during their activities. With a 40-to-50-hour workweek and the intense education he was getting, he knew quickly that it was worth the effort. Almost each class, for example, corporate finance, “was immediately relevant to my business. I struggled to keep up the commitment because I was seeing the benefits to my business,” he said. He noted that he was in the upper age bracket of the class population but that the majority in the class were in their 30s and 40s and had business experience, and all were determined to complete the course. In September 2012, after two years of intense effort, he finished the program and got that long-sought-after MBA. “It’s such an accomplishment; I have no regrets. Phoenix seemed the most comprehensive to me… the support, the interfacing, the tutoring… it all felt very comfortable, once I became accustomed to the online format. We were in constant contact and posting frequently so I could review content throughout the day, plus study several hours each evening,” he added. “I feel confident from the education and can draw on the most excellent principles,” he added, saying he’s made improvements in every aspect of his business and adopted high industry standards. “The overall experience is something I’d always recommend to others.” Immersed in a new career For East Bay resident Holly Williams,
“The more I’m there in the program, the more excited I get. I tell my friends I had to think about something I’d really want to do for a long, long time. You’ve got to really like something to be able to make a success of it...” Holly Williams it took a few years, but now she’s confident that she has selected a path that will bring her satisfaction for the rest of her professional life. When she graduated from high school in 2009, she was bewildered, as were many of her classmates. “I was lost, I had many interests but no real focus,” Williams recalled. She started studying psychology at her local junior college, more because she didn’t know what other pathways were than that it really attracted her. Not surprisingly, after a few terms the commitment waned and she headed out on other job adventures, some in the area, but also spending many months in the Lake Tahoe as a barista and other hospitality jobs. Early this year she determined that cosmetology was her path. “I’ve always been interested in this – hair, makeup and myriad other services. I’ve learned that it’s a passion, not a job,” she said. At the Paul Mitchell Beauty School in Pleasant Hill, she’s immersed in a 1,600-hour training program. It includes design, theory, the science of many of the chemical processes, shadowing certified cosmetologists and hands-on work with customers, from cleansing to styling and hair color to nail and skin care. Williams noted that the students learn about all aspects of the industry, from the chemicals and the instruments used, to running and owning a business, to developing a style or specialty. Completion of the course helps prepare students to take the California State Board exam, with both a lengthy written test and a hands-on portion.
“I feel like we’re really being prepared for certification and for building our confidence,” she explained. “The more I’m there in the program, the more excited I get. I tell my friends I had to think about something I’d really want to do for a long, long time. You’ve got to really like something to be able to make a success of it,” she noted. Driving to success For some youth, cars are a diversion, for others, a means to a career. Fortunately for many students who participate in some of the Contra Costa County Office of Education’s ROP Automotive Technology (AYES/NATEF) program at Alhambra High School in Martinez, they are able to channel their interests and skills and earn high school credits while preparing for a great career. While several other schools in the county provide some automotive training, this two-year program which they begin in their junior year prepares them to transition to real-world jobs in the automotive maintenance industry. Working at a well-equipped shop on campus with an experienced teacher who has been an automotive mechanic for many years, the students learn more
than just the basics of automotive care. Instructor Brian Wheeler oversees the shop and the program and encourages his students to embrace the work ethic, be attentive to detail and market themselves as great candidates for future employment. According to Sally Savage, Principal of Student Programs, ROP, these students are educated in all aspects of being a valuable employee. They learn about automotive processes, but also about the importance of good attendance, how to prepare for and interview well and construct an appealing resume. Many of them are accepted as summer interns at various car dealers and automotive shops in the area, giving them a new level of hands-on experience and the opportunity to turn that internship into a full time job. Among recent participants in the ROP’s two-year, advanced training are Aaron Paredes and Felix Martinez, now employed by BMW Concord, and Sanveer Garcha is a summer intern. At Walnut Creek Honda, David Perez and works full-time for the dealership, and Freddie Gutierrez is a summer intern. Starting as juniors in the ROP auto program, each has been able to
Felix Martinez and Aaron Paredes
get real world, hands-on experience at a mechanical shop at their high school, earning credits towards graduation as well. These five have also received training in interviewing and resume writing during the ROP program and were selected by the dealerships as summer interns. The ROP teachers select only a few students each year and work with them to apply for internships. As an intern, they job shadow, learning real world skills including good job attendance, learning from others and applying their knowledge. In many cases, reports Savage, these students have worked part-time during their senior year in high school. “I learned to be mature and responsible and how to work well with grown ups… I got to know the reality,” said Paredes. His mentor at BMW Concord, Lenny Outman, noted, “They really know their stuff when they come here full time, including documentation and computer skills, which are equally important” to success as a mechanic in a commercial setting. With coaching from their instructor as well as from Savage, these students are setting – and reaching – their goals. They have been able to become interns in professional settings, furthering their education and career training and often leading to full-time employment with a company. Trading a T-shirt for a dealership uniform shirt, and being mentored throughout the internship by a company mechanic, is for many a major step towards independence and financial success. These particular individuals are now moving toward, or have successfully transitioned to positions requiring advanced automotive skills and have a firm focus on a positive employment future. Savage noted that representatives of the ROP programs throughout the Bay Area school districts are actively in involved in high schools, encouraging students to consider certain “pathways” that will help them prepare for a career after college. Not all high schools have Continued on page 16
Good credit – it’s up to you to protect it
ad credit can follow you for the rest of your days, whereas good credit can help you secure loans with good rates. And good credit is even more important these days,
as some employers run credit checks on candidates before making hiring decisions. Don’t let college be a time to rack up credit card debt you can’t pay off. Before opening an account, thoroughly read the terms of service to understand how the card works and avoid incurring unnecessary fees. Establish a bill payment reminder on your cellphone so you’re never late. Now’s a good time to create a budget that ensures you can pay your bill in full each month. Remember that in college the skills you learn outside the classroom can be just as important as the knowledge acquired inside it.
““Education is the m
which you can use to
ost powerful w eapon change the worl d.” ” ~ Nelson Mand ela
ls the schoo n i n o i t a uc goal of ed e l who p i c n i r “The p reating men and woment simply c things, no should be w e n g ne; n i o le of d s have do b n a o p i t a a c r e e r n a tive and ther ge n o e t v a n h i , w e g v ati repeatin ho are cre w n e erify, and v m d o n w a d l n a c a ti men can be cri ” o h w , s r e r e offered. r a y e h discove t g n Piaget in a h t e J y r ~ e v e , t not accep
Online education, continued from page 8
programs to reduce uncertainty, and save time, energy and money. Check www.onlinedegrees.com/california. html and www.petersons.com. Investigate college web sites. Phone and ask questions. Contact the admission office and visit the institution. Request meetings with career advisors, students and professors. Determine if you can audit a course. Talk with people who have had experience with online education. Speak to potential employers and attend orientation programs. Evaluate Will online learning fit your circumstances, lifestyle and educational needs? Review the following to determine your suitability to an online program. Know yourself and identify the type of degree (Associate, Bachelor’s, Ph.D.) you want. You must be self-motivated, self-disciplined and comfortable communicating in writing. You should enjoy reading, think critically and feel relaxed with new technologies. To evaluate an online program’s suitability, know whether the program will enable you to attain your desired goal, and whether you can afford the tuition. You should have things in common with the student profile and like the campus setting, size and
school’s reputation. Assess potential professors’ teaching style; offerings such as study skills and athletics; admission process; and whether your test scores (SAT, ACT) and GPA will be acceptable. Ensure your desired program offers: orientation; virtual classrooms with instant messaging and shared virtual whiteboards which allow interaction with fellow students and instructors; online recorded video lectures; message boards and chat rooms; e-learning resources; constructive professor feedback on tests and assignments; program advisors; and 24/7 IT support. Create a chart. List college names (at least 15) at top of the page, and preferred program characteristics down the left margin. Assign each criterion a point of 3 (very good), 2 (OK), and 3 (poor). Then total your scores to determine your best options. Attend to your feelings. Write your thoughts. Does the institution fit your personal qualities and desired lifestyle? Do significant others believe you’re suited to this program? Once you’ve identified your preferred program, prepare your applications. Best wishes on attaining your desired career/life. Dr. Carole Kanchier is a registered psychologist, coach, speaker and author of the award-winning book, Questers: Dare to Change Your Job and Life. Contact Carole at carole@daretochange. com or visit www.daretochange.com.
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hlone College offers job training for some of the highest demand jobs in the Bay Area; jobs that employers say they have a hard time filling because of a shortage of trained workers. As the economy begins to turn around, skilled IT workers have no difficulty finding jobs. Employers are looking for people with training at all education levels. Whether you want to take one refresher course, or are seeking a certificate that can get you into the workforce in as little as one or two semesters, or hope to receive an Associate’s degree in two years that will allow you to transfer to a university, there is a wide range of job-related training available at Ohlone. Ohlone’s training in the field of high technology covers a broad spectrum. The fields of study include Cisco Certified Network Associate or Professional, Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer or Administrator, Desktop Support Technician, Web Infrastructure, Web Design and Programming, and Database Administration with a wide variety of related programs. A number of computer science and information technology skills apply in other fast growing employment fields in which Ohlone offers training as well, such as Computer Applications in Biotechnology, Geographic Information Systems, Web Programming and Video Game Development. Ohlone maintains close advisory relationships with employers to be sure the skills being taught remain relevant to their needs. For instance, Ohlone has a close association with Cisco, EMC2 and VMware to train systems professionals. Community colleges such as Ohlone make a large contribution to the growth of the state’s economy through the job training and retraining they provide to keep the work force current to employer needs. Ohlone offers a multitude of career programs in other fields in addition to IT-related programs that are relevant to our economy, in fields with a high-growth future that will pay well. To learn more about Ohlone College and to enroll in a degree or certificate program, visit www.ohlone.edu.
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Trade schools have become an increasingly popular option among Bay Area students By Erin Herlihy
he Bay Area offers a wide variety of trade school programs including animal care, automotive, cosmetology, massage therapy and nursing. These schools provide an accelerated learning program for students wanting to transition quickly into the job market. Following the recession, trade schools saw a rise in enrollment as students sought to efficiently learn a trade and obtain employment. Trade school programs provide an opportunity for hands-on training in a specified field without the added cost of additional courses that are generally required by four-year and even some two-year programs. While some trade schools focus solely on one field like Le Cordon Bleu of San Francisco, which focuses on training and certification in the culinary arts, some trade schools have many programs to choose from, featuring over a dozen subjects and industries. In recent years, trade schools have been on the rise as a demand for skilled workers has become greater. The percentage of unemployed or underemployed college graduates has also risen. Employers are in need of workers who are trained in a specific field and are prepared to enter the workforce upon completion of the program. This demand has made trade school an increasingly viable option for recent high school graduates and adults returning to the work force. Researching potential schools It is never too early to begin researching a potential school. While trade schools can be an efficient way to train for a new career, it is essential that students thoroughly research any school they plan on attending. It is important to investigate the details of the program including prerequisites, courses required, length of program and the record of job placement upon completion of the program. It is important to research any potential schools’ accreditation because it can affect the validity of your degree. Educational accreditation is used to evaluate schools and determine if the school and/or programs meet the criteria for a successful program. There are multiple types of accreditation including regional and national. Regionally accredited schools are reviewed by regional agencies to ensure they meet the traditional
standards of higher education and provide students with a valuable education. Alternatively, national accreditation is often employed when schools or programs differ from the traditional approach and therefore are reviewed using different requirements and standards. It is important to consider your future plans when researching and choosing a school because the accreditation of your school can affect these plans. If a student intends to transfer to a state college or university, which are all regionally accredited, remember that credits from regionally accredited schools are generally more transferable to other institutions, both nationally and regionally accredited; while credits from nationally accredited schools tend to be denied transfer because of the different standards used in national accreditation.
“Classes were small enough that teachers knew you by name and built relationships with their students.” Small classrooms and accelerated courses One benefit of attending a trade school is the expedited process. While some programs only take six months to complete, the majority take 18 months to two years to complete. The school and chosen program will affect the time and units required to complete a program. Most trade schools also offer night programs for students with day jobs, enabling students to simultaneously work and earn a degree. Some schools even offer a combination of in-class and online learning to provide a convenient option for busy students. Heald Business College alumna, Katie Resch, described trade school as “an incredibly diverse environment, with students ranging from straight out of high school to people in their forties looking for a change in career.” She also noted that “classes were small enough that teachers knew you by name and built relationships with their students.” Considering costs While considering your options, it is important to
remember that programs will range in both cost and quality. Determine if the potential school is worth its fees based on its accreditation and the success of former graduates. The cost of trade school will also fluctuate as a result of various factors including location, course load and program. A good way to determine the value of a program is to research the average salary of graduates from that program, using websites such as glassdoor.com which provides reviews and salaries from professionals in a specific area. If eligible, financial aid is also available to students considering trade school. Check with a desired school’s advisors on financial affairs to see if the program you are considering school is eligible for federal financial aid. Be careful when seeking loans through private lenders; always read the fine print before signing any agreement. Private loans often have variable interest rates, and are subject to rise. It is also important to be aware of when a loan starts accruing interest. All private and most federal loans begin accruing interest as soon as the student begins using the money. Some loans however, don’t begin accruing interest until after the student graduates, like Stafford loans Career placement Many trade schools provide career placement for students after completing a program. If a desired school doesn’t provide this service, research the employment rate of previous students. Some schools, like Heald College, pride themselves on their dedication to seeing students through from classroom to workplace. Resch reflected on her experience with Heald College’s career services saying, “Heald commits to its alumni’s success by providing career services for life, by offering free typing tests and assisting in redesigning of a student’s resume whenever needed, among other things.” Many trade schools have similar programs and focus primarily on preparing its students for employment by helping them to hone their skills and present themselves professionally during the interview process. Trade schools are quickly becoming the popular option for busy people at any age who are looking to improve their career and get ahead. Potential students must do the necessary research, ask questions, weigh their options, and plan for the future before making starting a particular program.
s college costs soar out of control, and student loan debt has now surpassed credit card debt in the United States, one San Jose couple has had enough and decided to do something about it. Valerie Galey and Mike Aber, local college planners, teach a free class to show parents exactly how to qualify for financial aid, no matter how much money they make, or how good of a student they have. “Most parents are completely ignorant of the financial aid system, and have no clue about how the rules work in the real world,” Aber states. “There is a ton of money available at top-notch schools — even for families that earn a six figure income — today if parents just know the right way to apply. We are going to show them how,” Galey adds. The workshops will focus on little-known ways of getting money for college. The class will include such topics as how to double or triple your eligibility for free grant money, the secret to sending your child to a private or UC school for less than the cost of a junior college, and how to avoid the single biggest mistake that nine out of ten parents make when filling out college forms. Aber and Galey are part of Ducerus, a network of the nation’s premier experts on college planning and paying for college. Ducerus founder, Ron Caruthers, is the author of “What Your Guidance Counselor Isn’t Telling You,” an easy-to-read guide to the college planning process. As a leading advocate for families, Mr. Caruthers has authored several books related to white papers explaining the financial aid process and calling for a congressional overhaul of the current complex system. “Once a family understands the system and the right way to approach it, almost no school in the country is out of their financial reach. They can avoid this whole student loan mess by taking just a little time to educate themselves,” Aber assures. “Our free, no-strings-attached class is the perfect way to get a head start on this.”
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Diverse educational programs, continued from page 11
school counselors with enough time to help individual students think about what might come next in their post-high school years, observed Savage, and the ROP programs offered in many topics are designed to encourage students to pursue specific interests and explore potential career paths. Designing a career course In high school, Giovanni Orellana wanted to be an architect “because I loved building and designing houses on the computer. After working on a car design project, I realized my passion was for cars. He said, “I went to college because it was what was expected of me. But I didn’t enjoy it. I wasn’t motivated by what I was being taught. I wanted to find a career doing what I liked and had fun doing, and where I could earn a decent
Giovanni Orellana paycheck.” He decided to attend Universal Technical Institute in Hayward, and “ended up loving it more than I could ever imagine.” He added, “UTI was amazing. Instructors know what they are talking about, and classes were very concise. Three weeks for a single course, three weeks later you are in a different course learning a new skill.” He then went to UTI’s Rancho Cucamonga campus for Mercedes-Benz
specific training/specialized schooling. Three weeks after finishing that program, for which he received a certification in automotive/diesel/industrial with Mercedes-Benz specialty training, he was hired by Mercedes-Benz of Walnut Creek. “I’m loving it! I work as an apprentice technician helping the other technicians, and learning as much as I can. My next goal is to become a flat rate technician. My ultimate goal is to become a design engineer for Mercedes-Benz but learning how to fix them is the first step in learning how to design them.” A first for her family
Lanakila Alvarez It has been a long road for Lanakila Alvarez since she left high school and passed her GED in 1984, but she’s now proud to boast of her Associates Degree of Applied Science in Business Management, which she completed earlier this year through the Hayward campus of Heald Business College, becoming the first in her family to earn a college degree. It took four years for Alvarez to complete the course work. She worked diligently with coaching and tutoring from others “who knew exactly what I was going through” while working parttime and attending college part-time. After a variety of jobs over many years, from basic tasks to apprenticeships, stints in retail and grocery, she took some time off before joining Home Depot in 2007. There she began working with computers and had some math challenges “which made me feel uncomfortable and out of place with some of the job duties,” but as a
supervisor she wasn’t going to give up. “When I was asked to do a Power Point presentation,” she recalled, “I knew I needed to go back to school.” During her initial term with Heald she tried to work full-time and go to school full-time, and it “wasn’t working.” Online learning was difficult so she concentrated on classes at the school, attending parttime and working part-time. “Heald kept me moving forward, with tutors and coaches at the Learning Resource Center. These tutors knew exactly what I was going through,” she said. Now, as a graduate of the program – obtained this past April, Alvarez is a confident assistant store manager at the Foster City Home Depot, where she has been employed since 2007. “If you want something you’ve never had, do something you’ve never done,” was a phrase from the school that she found particularly inspiring throughout her arduous journey. “And I’ve done it!” Plugged into a rewarding career Nathan Dingel of Hayward had always had an interest in the field of electrical work, but didn’t get started on a formal education program until over a decade after high school. He started WyoTech’s Electrician program in 2009 and with the help of a sign language interpreter, completed not only the courses for that major, and he added HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) training, too, noting that the fields overlap each other. “I decided on a trade school because (electrical work) is something that I like to do with my hands, and I’ve always have had an interest in electrical field.” He chose WyoTech in Fremont, the closest trade school program, and completed both courses of study in 2012. The school reports that he excelled in all his classes and received Highest Overall GPA awards for his accomplishments. Bolstered by career search help from the school, and his own positive outlook and determination, he was hired by Dublin Parks & Recreation as a maintenance technician and now works in a similar capacity for Nitinol Devices and Components in Fremont.
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One of the most common myths about online courses is that they are a passive experience. For Extension student Nadine Kabbara, the experience of taking an online course at UCSC Extension was actually active and engaging.
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She explains that in one course, the instructor asked each student to create a personal avatar to communicate online. “In another class, I had to play a game as part of the lesson,” she recalls. “It’s not only about taking classes and doing assignments; it’s about participating, collaborating, engaging, researching, analyzing, reflecting, forum posting, drafting, reiterating, [and] presenting.” How, exactly, do seasoned instructors translate years of industry knowledge and in-person lessons to an online format? At UCSC Extension, they work with a team of online course specialists who can recommend a variety of methods for enriching the course experience. As a result, the course is more than just recorded lectures, and instructors can focus on the substantive essence of the course and fostering interaction with students. Ultimately, online learning at UCSC Extension is a human experience, conveyed through technology. Whether the instructor is teaching project management, computer programming, educational therapy or biotechnology, the course is backed up by an expert staff dedicated to the user experience. Though all of Extension’s courses are developed in Santa Clara, instructors in different departments build online lessons and exercises in a variety of ways. For example, Extension’s Santa
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Clara facility has labs specially equipped for computing exercises in networking and cloud computing. With the right software tools, online courses can offer the same lab activities, according to Andy Hou, Director of Extension’s Engineering and Technology department. “Many of our Engineering and Technology courses require students to do programming assignments using industry-standard programming tools,” Hou says. “In one specific course, VMware vSphere ICM, we provide online lab access for students to conduct exercises remotely. Each student has his own ESXi server, vCenter Server, and SAN to perform the configuration and management of a virtualized environment. This course allows students to gain practical experience with virtual servers.” Hou says that students appreciate the flexibility of studying online, and the ability to replay lectures. Over the last five years, Extension’s unique combination of Silicon Valley expertise and online accessibility has attracted students from more than 35 states and 13 countries. Because UCSC Extension is part of the University of California, all online courses are subject to the same rigorous academic review that governs in-class instruction. Unlike many online offerings, Extension’s courses are accredited and can be applied toward a UC certificate. Some programs, such as Technical Writing and Communication and Project Management, can even be completed entirely online. Certificate student Purnima Krishnamurthy works as an instructional designer for a major tech firm, so she understands what an online course can really be. “Extension’s course on online theories and online training reflected the direction that a significant part of our content is moving.” She’s right: as online learning proliferates and the landscape of higher education becomes increasingly digital, UCSC Extension is committed to staying on the cutting edge.
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What can SJSU do for you?
oing to college isn’t just for 19-year-olds in Bermuda shorts and flip-flops anymore. San José State University offers academic and degree opportunities to adults on campus, off campus and online to accommodate the busy schedules of professionals and local students. Whether you wish to earn a graduate degree in Engineering, Business or many other subjects, or just to take a college course without enrolling in SJSU, the university’s College of International and Extended Studies (CIES) can be an easy solution. And unlike most extension programs, all Extended Studies courses are taught by SJSU faculty and provide direct college credit. “We’re happy to provide working students with pathways to college credit,” said CIES Associate Dean, Steve Zlotolow, Ph.D. “We’re able to help a professional business person get an MBA without leaving their job, or a stay-at-home mom or dad to earn a degree while raising a family.” San José State provides Silicon Valley with more professionals than any other college or university, especially in the fields of engineering, science and business. Many of those students and others come back to SJSU to continue their education and climb higher on the career ladder. Students also use Extended Studies to finish an undergraduate degree. As a nonprofit public university, SJSU provides a quality education at a lower price point than most local colleges and universities. SJSU is committed to serving its communities by not only supplying skilled and talented graduates but by increasing the quantity and quality of educated Bay Area professionals. Much like the region it serves, innovation is at the
heart of San José State’s Extended Studies programs. SJSU offers certificates in Business Analytics; Executive MBAs delivered in two weekday evenings plus every other Saturday; one- and two-year MBA’s; and courses that run from five to ten weeks during summer, winter and during regular SJSU semesters. The goal of Extended Studies is to make earning a degree as easy for working professionals as possible while providing the academic excellence available on campus to enrolled students. Many courses are available online in small classes with direct and consistent communication with SJSU faculty. Take that course on your schedule rather than someone else’s. Some Engineering courses and even degrees are available by taking courses at a local corporation or at an offsite building closer to potential students than the campus. Are you an information junkie? If you have a knack for managing any type of information, consider a career in Information Science, which provides degrees that bolster a career in database management, “webmastering” and big data analysis. An information science degree requires training in sophisticated technologies to keep pace in the demands of the professional workplace. The choices are varied, highly innovative and worth your time exploring. San José State University has degrees and programs that cater to the needs of most San Francisco Bay Area niche industries and more. Be part of the innovation; include San José State University as part of your long-term career advancement plan.
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Published on Aug 18, 2013
Online education: What to expect and the advantages and disadvantages; Planning ahead: Focus on the costs and resources when considering hig...