Michigan students exploring trade schools as some colleges see enrollment drop

'More people are coming to the trades right now'
Posted at 11:38 AM, Mar 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-21 22:07:53-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — The cost of a college degree has many people choosing to bypass a bachelor’s and get into a trade.

For nearly a decade, the number of people trying to obtain a four-year or two-year degree has been on a steady decline. The pandemic caused a deeper nosedive, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

In 2009, Central Michigan University had nearly 25,000 people enrolled. Fast forward to 2020, it was down to 17,000. To accommodate the dwindling demand, CMU made the decision to temporarily close four of its residence halls in the fall of 2022.

“I got accepted into the University of Michigan,” Loren Burns said.

While attending Roseville High School, Burns says all his teachers pushed him to attend a four-year university. But instead, he opted to work with his hands, swapping out an expensive bachelor’s degree for trade school.

“You get paid to go to school. Tuition is free, books are free, you get paid to learn. This is a paid day for me,” Burns said.

It seems more people are making the switch.

“More people are coming to the trades right now,” said Steve McCool, an instructor at the Detroit Union Carpenters and Millwrights Skilled Training Center.

McCool attends job fairs and says in the past five years, he has noticed more people taking an interest in trade jobs again.

“Counselors [are] really saying now, 'Go into the trades,' instead of pushing just to go to college,” McCool said of one of the reasons behind the educational shift.

College enrollment is not down at all colleges in Michigan. Both Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan say their incoming undergraduate classes are bigger than before the pandemic.

Either way, Burns believes he made the right choice and wants others to know there are different paths toward success.

“I have no complaints about it, I really enjoy the Union,” Burns said.

If you would like to find out more on how to get into trades or more information about a program to get free college tuition in Michigan, click here.

Click here for a map of career and technical education programs offered in Michigan.