JACKSONVILLE, Ark. — School has been in session for a few months now, and students have been certainly back in the classroom this fall— but not all of them have returned to the classrooms we've been accustomed to seeing them in.
Amid student loan stress, some students have chosen trade schools over traditional four-year universities.
Madison Guest is one of the dozens of students who have been working towards certification at the Arkansas Welding Academy in Jacksonville.
"I enrolled [at the Arkansas Welding Academy] because I knew college was not going to be an option for me, or well, it was but I wasn't able to afford it all," Guest added, "after seven months, you're on the road or already working, already making money."
About 50 students are enrolled in the welding academy at the moment, and the academy has seen more students in the last 8 months than it did in the entirety of last year.
Director of Arkansas Welding Academy, Alice Obenshain explained that they've seen a tremendous increase in applications and they are "extremely excited about the trend of enrollment to trade schools."
Obenshain described the boom in students in the context of welding as, "it's just literally on fire."
The cost for certification at Arkansas Welding Academy is about $21,910 over the course of 7 months; with an average graduate salary of $47,010 per year.
Meanwhile, the cost of a four-year university nationwide has gone up in recent years.
According to a report by US News and World, a United States public university costs an average of $46,548 over four years,
And according to ZipRecruiter, the average salary of a graduate is $38,760.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has also largely credited affordability for its recent spike in enrollment.
Assistant Vice Chancellor Of Enrollment Management at UALR, Dr. Kindle Holderby said, "We just kind of cut straight through all that and said, okay, for first-time freshmen, when you're coming here, if you commit to coming here, we're going to lock you in at 50% off your tuition and fees for not only your freshman year but your sophomore year, as well."
Overall, more students have been searching for a way to make their education, really pay off.
"[People] really need to get to work quicker. And they also understand the costs are significantly different," Obenshain said.
Due to high demand, Arkansas Welding Academy has had a waitlist for admissions but they expect students who apply on a rolling basis to start classes three to four weeks after admission.