Higher education is basically tertiary education culminating in the award of a prestigious academic degree to an individual. Higher education, sometimes known as post-secondary study, second-level or non-thesis education and is usually an elective course that is pursued by people interested in furthering their education in a particular subject. It is usually a time period of three years in which students complete a bachelors or masters degree in a particular field of study. Most commonly, these degrees are in the humanities, sciences and social sciences.
In the United States, the major fields of study in the United States include the following: nursing, architecture, business, criminal justice, arts and sciences, education and human services management. The number of institutions offering higher education varies nationally. In terms of tuition fees, they vary from state to state. The institutional fee structure varies by state as well; some states have no tuition at all while others require students to pay a percentage of their income on campus. There is a wide disparity between public and private colleges in terms of quality of education and student-to-faculty ratios.
In recent years, there has been a surge of colleges and universities that have become accredited by the Commission on Colleges and Universities (CCU) which is an agency of the U.S. Department of Education. These colleges and universities that are accredited by the CCCU offer degree programs leading to bachelor and master’s degrees. Accreditation is important because it ensures that a post-secondary institution has met standard educational requirements and is therefore legitimate and trustworthy. It ensures students that the institution where they will earn their degrees is an actual institution of higher learning and that it meets the requirements of academic and other research standards.
In most states, there are two types of universities: public colleges and private colleges. Public colleges are non-profit organizations established for the benefit of the public. These colleges and universities must meet state and federal government mandates for eligibility to participate in higher education programs and must accept student credit for work completed outside of their classroom. Students can earn associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees at public universities. Private colleges, unlike public institutions, are not governed by government regulations and are generally for profit institutions with various tuition and financial aid options available to students regardless of their backgrounds.
The most common misconception students have is that earning a four year degree will provide them with job skills which will help them in every aspect of their lives. This is simply not the case. As noted above, one must complete at least three years of full-time classroom instruction in order to gain an understanding of academic and societal expectations. This experience prepares students to face the challenges of a demanding career and beyond. Students also have the opportunity to develop skills beyond the classroom which prepare them to be successful in a real world economy. A four-year degree does not necessarily translate into employment; however, it is a strong indication of one’s ability to succeed in a work environment which requires creativity and versatility beyond a traditional classroom setting.
The cost of attending college is steadily rising, which has left some students with the option of earning a two-year degree at community colleges or technical schools instead of the traditional four-year degree. While earning a two-year degree is a reasonable alternative to the four-year degree, it is important to note that these institutions often lack the social and academic interaction which is required of students who pursue a four year degree. For this reason, many two-year institutions tend to fail after just one year. Students who are looking to go back to school, but who are concerned about the cost should consider technical or community college courses. They will offer the same level of education and often more flexibility.