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Is a four-year college degree for you? Students consider alternative careers

Posted at 6:19 AM, Sep 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-11 09:42:19-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- Rising college tuition and the through of paying off students debt for years could be enough to make some students reconsider their path once they graduate high school.

Some graduates are looking for alternatives to the traditional four-year degree. Jobs like mechanics, hair stylists and chefs dare just a few examples.

West Michigan is even home to one of the top culinary schools in the country, with plenty of space for more students.

"The industry right now needs chefs," explains Dan Gendler, Program Director of the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College.

"We are at a point where there are more jobs than students.”

Those are the kind of odds recent grads love to hear. Gendler suggests prospective students look no further. A$20,000 degree includes the entire two years of schooling. He adds it's a fraction of the cost of national schools which can be upward of $60,000.

"There are so many scholarships afforded and given to students here but I haven’t had any issues paying for my schooling here," says student, Stephanie Pyka.

"They're great about finding ways to help you get through the program.”

According to Pyka, no other career path gave her the same fulfillment that working in the kitchen does.

Secchia’s program boasts one of the highest ratings of its kind in the country, with a state of the art facility and the chance for students to get the most hands on training.

"If a student comes in and doesn’t have any experience in the industry at all, we are so hands on that they’ll get a good line cook job at minimum and they are running at $12 to $15 an hour or more," says Gendler.

From there, Gendler said a chef can work his or her way up to positions that command $50,000 to $100,000 a year.

With Grand Rapids being home to many venues and restaurants, Pyka says she’s in control of her future.

"If youre passionate about food, if you are looking to explore a creative side you didn’t think could bring you the kind of financial security, you'd be surprised how far cooking can take you. It can take you worldwide or take you and keep you in your hometown and provide you the kind of life you and your family want to have.”

The Secchia Institute offers tours every Friday. For more information, click here.