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Community Colleges Offer Cheaper Alternative to Grad School

Schools offering alternatives to graduate degrees help get workers where employers need them.

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[Get more tips for paying for graduate school.]

Not only will community college coursework not break the bank, but it's also very easy to access. Student bodies include the entire mix, from recent high school graduates to riffed or retired people looking for what comes next. "Nationwide, community colleges accommodate anyone who walks through the door," says Joe Dunlap, president of Spokane (Wash.) Community College.

Spokane's $20 million grant will allow it to lead a consortium of community colleges developing curricula, with Boeing's help, to train maintenance technicians, component and electrical assemblers, hydraulic technicians, and repair workers for the aerospace industry. Programs range from an 11-week course for aircraft assemblers to a two-year degree as an aviation maintenance technician; in composite manufacturing, students will learn new engineering techniques required to make aircraft from carbon fiber and Kevlar instead of aluminum.

[Read about how aviation M.B.A. programs are taking off.]

"Our goal is to be proactive," says Tidewater's DiCroce, "and to work arm in arm with business and industry so there is not a workplace crisis or shortage." Employers signal the need, and community colleges deliver the goods.

Searching for a grad school? Get our complete rankings of Best Graduate Schools.