College Programs

If you are a paraprofessional who is interested in enrolling in college, the information on this page will answer the most frequent questions people have about college attendance. Click on the links provided to get more specific information about college programs and financial assistance.

What skills do I need to go to college?

Academic Skills

Academic success is one of the most important factors in attending college. There are many skills involved with doing well in school and they all take practice. There is no magic involved in being a great student. It takes hard work to acquire academic skills and you have to use these skills regularly to hone and sharpen them. Some of the skills necessary for college level work are:

  • Basic Skills (Reading, Writing, Math)
  • Time Management
  • Test Preparation
  • Study Skills
  • Concentration and focus (Source:

Personal Skills

Succeeding in college can require many different skills. You will certainly need the academic skills you have learned prior to college, but you will also need personal skills. You will need to know when and how to be assertive, how to deal with stress, how to solve problems, and how to adapt to change. (Source:

Student Support Services

The good news is that at many colleges offer a wide array of student services that will help you build and maintain academic skills. Most of these services at college are free of charge or low cost. Student services offered at most colleges are:

  • Tutoring and Writing Centers
  • Personal Counseling
  • Academic Advising
  • Career Counseling

Why should I attend college?

A college degree can provide you with many opportunities in life. A college education can mean:

Greater Knowledge

A college education will increase your ability to understand developments in science and in society, to think abstractly and critically, to express thoughts clearly in speech and in writing, and to make wise decisions. These skills are useful both on and off the job.

More Money

A person who attends college generally earns more than a person who does not. For example, in 1997, a person with a college degree from a four-year college earned approximately $18,000 more in that year than a person who did not go to college. Someone with a two-year associate’s degree also tends to earn more than a high school graduate.

Greater Potential

A college education can help increase your understanding of the community, the Nation, and the world - as you explore interests, discover new areas of knowledge, consider lifelong goals, and become a responsible citizen.

More Job Opportunities

The world is changing rapidly. Many jobs rely on new technology and already require more brain power than muscle power. In your working life, more and more jobs will require education beyond high school. With a college education, you will have more jobs from which to choose. (Source

What types of colleges exist?

There are many higher education options in the United States. You can learn about the different options available to you and find a college well-suited to your needs.

There are two basic types of post-secondary education options:

Community, Technical, and Junior Colleges

Many kinds of colleges offer programs that are less than four years in length. Most of these schools offer education and training programs that are two years in length or less. The programs often lead to a certificate, an associate of arts (A.A.) degree, an associate of science (A.S.) degree, an associate of applied science (A.A.S.) degree. or an associate of general studies degree (A.G.S.). AA, AS, and AGS degrees are usually designed to help a student complete the first two years of college and then transfer to a four-year college or university. AAS degrees and certificate programs are designed to train students for a specific career and the courses don’t generally transfer to a four-year college or university. The courses taken for the AA, AS, or AGS count toward a BA or BS degree program. Two-year colleges such as community colleges often operate under an “open admissions” policy that can vary from school to school. At some institutions, “open admissions” means that anyone who has a high school diploma or GED certificate can enroll. At other schools, anyone over 18 years of age can enroll. Some schools have programs that allow open admissions, while other programs in the same school - particularly in scientific or technical subjects - may have further admission requirements. Because requirements vary widely, it is important to check into schools and programs individually. (Source

Four-Year Colleges and Universities

These schools usually offer a bachelor of arts (B.A.) or bachelor of science (B.S.) degree. Some also offer graduate and professional degrees. These institutions may be either public or private. Four-Year Colleges: These are post-secondary schools that provide four-year educational programs in the arts and sciences. These colleges confer bachelor’s degrees. Universities: These are post secondary schools that include a college of arts and/or sciences, one or more programs of graduate studies, and one or more professional schools. Universities confer bachelor’s degrees and graduate, master’s and Ph.D. degrees. Many universities also confer professional degrees, for example, in law or medicine. When a student earns a bachelor’s degree it means that he or she has taken courses in a broad range of subjects, (usually called general studies, core, or similar names) and has studied one subject area in greater depth. (This one area is called the student’s “major.” A bachelor’s degree is usually required before a student can begin studying for a graduate degree. A graduate degree is usually earned through two or more years of advanced studies beyond four years of college. This might be a master’s or a doctoral degree in a particular field or a specialized degree required in certain professions such as law, social work, architecture, or medicine. (Source

How do I find out about college programs?

You can find out about college programs from many sources. You can contact colleges directly. You can search the web for information on college programs and you can check with the Human Resources department in your school district for information they may have on college programs in your area? Click here to go to our paraeducator helpful links page and find more resources about college programs.

Career Ladder and Career Lattice Programs

In addition, there are programs designed specifically to support paraeducators who wish to attend college. Career Ladder programs for paraeducators are created through collaborative efforts between school districts, community colleges, teacher education programs, and related organizations. They are designed to facilitate the career advancement of paraeducators by training them to move into the professional teaching ranks. Career lattice programs are similar collaborative efforts but train paraeducators to be more effective in their current roles by giving them additional skills and knowledge to perform their current duties. Career ladder and career lattice programs are usually funded by grants. Most commonly, they are designed to prepare paraeducators to work in either special education or bilingual education, as those are areas of high need for qualified staff. However, there are paraeducator programs across the nation that prepares paraeducators to work in different disciplines and program areas. The programs offered at The PAR²A Center are just three examples of training models that are being used to meet the needs of paraeducators in Colorado.

Click on the links below to learn about the Career Ladder and Career Lattice programs at The PAR²A Center.

How can I prepare for college?

Learning what it takes to go to college is an important first step in meeting your educational goals. The Educational Opportunity Centers (EOC) program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, provides counseling and information on college admissions to qualified adults who want to enter or continue college. A main focus of the EOC is to counsel participants on financial aid options and to assist in the application process. The goal of EOC is to increase the number of adult participants who enroll in higher education. There are 139 Educational Opportunity Centers in America serving 217,836 individuals. (Source

Services provided by the program include:

  • Academic advising
  • Personal counseling
  • Career workshops
  • Information on post secondary educational opportunities
  • Information on student financial assistance
  • Assistance in completing applications for admissions, testing and financial aid
  • Coordination with nearby post secondary institutions
  • Media activities designed to involve and acquaint the community with higher education opportunities
  • Tutoring
  • Mentoring

To find out of there is an Educational Opportunity Center near you contact your local colleges and/or universities, consult your local telephone listings, or do an internet search using the keywords EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY CENTER.

How will I pay for college?

You want to go to college but you are worried about how you will pay for it. You are not alone; most people feel the same way. In fact, many students use cost as a major factor in choosing which college to attend. What they do not realize is that the more expensive schools often have more money to give out in the form of aid, which can bring the price close to what the less expensive schools charge. Cost cannot be ruled out as a factor influencing your decision, but do there is money available to help you pay your college bills. It just takes some work on your part to identify and apply for financial assistance.

Most students rely on a number of different financial aid sources to pay for college. Financial aid is designed to help you and your family pay for most of the expenses associated with going to college. It is available to both full and part-time students (usually defined as a student taking at least six credit hours). In the United States, one out of every two college students receives some form of financial aid. (Source

Financial aid comes from federal and state governments, higher education institutions, private organizations, and businesses. There are several different types of financial aid including:

  • Fellowship – a scholarship or grant awarded to a graduate student in a college or university.
  • Scholarship – financial aid that usually is awarded for merit or academic achievement. A scholarship considered gift aid and does not have to be paid back.
  • Grant – a gift aid that does not have to be paid back.
  • Loan – money which must be repaid. Loan programs have varying repayment provisions.
  • Work Study – this program provides jobs that enable students to earn a portion of school costs through employment at the institution.

Whatever type of aid you use, the first step is to apply. It is an involved process that needs to be completed accurately and on time.

As you go through the process of applying for financial aid, these are some terms you may encounter and their definitions:

Need – the term “need,” as used in financial aid, usually refers to the difference between the resources available to the student (from parent’s, student savings and summer jobs, etc.) and the cost of attending the student’s selected post secondary institution. The process of determining “need” is often referred to as a “need analysis.”

Self Help – financial resources provided by the student.

Family Contribution – the combined contribution reasonably expected during the enrollment period from the student (and his or her spouse if applicable), as well as from the student’s parents if the student is a dependent. (Source

Financial Aid Resources

U.S. Department of Education

  • Student Aid 800-433-3243
  • SPED, Math, Science loan forgiveness up to $17,500: 800-433-7327

Free Application for Federal Student Aid – a free form distributed by the U.S. Department of Education to collect information used to determine a student’s need for federal financial aid.

Other federal agencies

  • Department of Health & Human Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Troops to Teachers

State agencies

Foundations and organizations

organizations (including professional associations) related to your field of interest, ethnicity-based organizations, religious organizations, community organizations, local businesses, and civic groups


  • your employer
  • the financial aid office at a college
  • scholarships: be wary of scholarship search services
  • use the reference section of your school or public library and the Internet

What career paths are open to me in education?


Paraeducators are sometimes also called paraprofessionals, teacher assistants, and aides. Educational requirements for paraeducators vary by State or school district and range from a high school diploma to some college training, although employers increasingly prefer applicants with some college training. Teacher assistants with instructional responsibilities usually require more training than do those who do not perform teaching tasks. In addition, as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, teacher assistants in Title 1 schools—those with a large proportion of students from low-income households—will be required to meet one of three requirements: have a minimum of 2 years of college, hold a 2-year or higher degree, or pass a rigorous state and local assessment. A number of 2-year and community colleges offer associate degree programs that prepare graduates to work as teacher assistants. The employment outlook is god for paraeducators with the number of jobs expected to grow. (Source


Public school teachers must have at least a bachelor’s degree, complete an approved teacher education program, and be licensed. Almost all States require applicants for a teacher’s license to be tested for competency in basic skills, such as reading and writing, and in teaching. Almost all also require the teacher to exhibit proficiency in his or her subject. Excellent job opportunities are expected as a large number of teachers retire over the next 10 years, particularly at the secondary school level; opportunities will vary somewhat by geographic area and subject taught. Job prospects are even better in special education. (Source


Many principal and administrator positions require a master’s or doctoral degree and experience in a related occupation, such as a teacher, prior to becoming an administrator. Strong interpersonal and communication skills are essential because much of an administrator’s job involves working and collaborating with others. Job outlook is expected to be excellent because a large proportion of education administrators are expected to retire over the next 10 years. (Source

Special Service Provider

Special service providers work in schools providing services to children. Examples are school psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, social workers, audiologists, and counselors. Most of these jobs require at least a Master’s degree, and possibly a doctoral degree and some prior teaching experience. All states required these professionals to be licensed. Job prospects in these fields are expected to grow faster than average for other professions. (Source

For more information on career prospects in education click here to go to our paraeducator helpful links page. You can search the Occupational Outlook Handbook for information on job outlook, working conditions, educational requirements, and salaries.