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The Increasing Wealth Gap & Alternatives to Attending University / By: Hailan Yu

It’s commonly believed that the more degrees you get, the more money you earn. But is it possible to earn more degrees without spending a lot of money? What if you do not feel that a traditional 4 year college degree is for you? 

The wealth gap between the most affluent people and the poorest people in America is widening as time goes by. In 2020, workers with a bachelor’s degree on average had a weekly income of $1,305, compared to $781 for workers with a high school diploma (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021). Additionally, many low-income high school students choose to opt out of college and post-high school opportunities due to lack of financial support while “students from high-income families are eight times more likely to get bachelor’s degrees by the time they’re 24 than those from low-income families” (Marcus & Hacker, 2015).

Alternative opportunities to college, such as community college, trade school, certifications, and more are less broadcasted to students, which leaves options available that students do not know about. Sonia Liew, a high school junior in Chicago, shares her lack of awareness about these alternatives. “Even though college is expensive, it seems like the only choice I have if I want to continue my education and get a job after.” Many high school students feel the same way about their post-secondary plans. However, some high-paying jobs only require certification or degrees that some students can receive in less than the normal four-year college programs. Sean Heraty, the Executive Director of Student Financial Services at City Colleges of Chicago at Harry S Truman College, shares that Truman College offers many opportunities for financial aid and to increase their earnings in their selected field. “When a student completes any academic program, they will have the ability to strengthen their earning power no matter where they work or what they do for a job.” In efforts to provide access to students from different socioeconomic status, Heraty says the City Colleges of Chicago work to “break down barriers that exist and hopes to strengthen the community by improving the lives of [the] students.” 

For students, these resources may be useful tools as they progress through their post-secondary plans. The drive to push information about these alternative programs to students may, in the long run, help lessen the wealth gap in America. 

Explore the City Colleges of Chicago on the My Chi. My Future. Platform at via the Colleges to Careers playlist. Also, visit the City Colleges of Chicago website directly at

List Sources:

  • 2- Statistic Links to both article sources

  • Name of 2 people you interviewed, title/position, email if possible

Sean Heraty, Executive Director of Student Financial Services at City Colleges of Chicago at Harry S Truman College, 

Sonia Liew, high school junior at Whitney Young Magnet High School, 


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