These all vary in price, acceptance rate, and time commitment. For example, a certification is often a one-time fee and can be completed anywhere between a few week and a few months. Many certification programs ask for a background in a certain field but otherwise "accept" everyone into the program. Community colleges and trade schools are also comparatively cheaper than a 4-year college, with some states even covering some-all of the cost with federal aid funding if you do not yet have a degree. They also have relatively lax acceptance rates compared to 4-year universities. As for those 4-year colleges, the cost an acceptance rate varies widely based on academic prestige, if it is a public or private university, whether you are applying to a school in your state or in a separate state, and what financial aid is available. Most 4-year universities offer grants, need based scholarships, and merit based scholarships in addition to accepting outside scholarships and FAFSA (federal student aid) funds. There are, of course, student loans, which I advise trying to avoid as much as possible, but if you can find a student loan that doesn't charge ridiculous interest, it is a viable option. Many people take their general education courses in the much cheaper community college before transferring to a 4 year university in order to save money. In short, college doesn't necessarily HAVE to be expensive or difficult to get into, though you have to really know your options in order to get the most bang for your buck.
If you attend a community college or 4-year college, you'll be working toward a major. This is your area of focus that you ideally get a job in. At the community college level, you can work towards a two year associates degree. At a 4-year college,you work towards a bachelors of science (BS) or Bachelor's of art (BA) degree. These degrees are earned by taking classes that give you credit hours in a certain field. Once you reach a certain number of credit hours in a) general education classes and b) classes in your chosen major, that is when you graduate with a degree. For example, if someone wanted to major in Biology, they would take their general distribution classes (things like intro Bio, statistics, intro history, and a writing course), then they could focus on classes that counted towards a Biology credit. They could then graduate with a Bachelors of Science in Biology.
I can't say why colleges are so picky and expensive but there are ways around those costs such as working part time for a company that offers tuition assistance (Starbucks). Credits are based on a class, for example every class equals 3 credits which is added to your total that will reach your graduation goal of 100 per say. Once you reach the total credits needed you earn your degree, oddly schools should remove the whole credits system since you need X classes to graduate with that degree so you should simply just need to complete those classes and you're good. My advice is to really research what you want to do and select the your school based on those wants to eliminate the cost of switching majors so often. Second, see if it's possible to work while attending college for a company with a good assistance program.
Now, why it's so expensive? I don't think anyone can honestly answer that one, I know I can't. I would absolutely recommend looking for scholarships and grants early though. There's a lot of money available for scholarships that sometimes go unused because people don't know about them or people just don't apply for them. Look for as many scholarships as you can and apply, apply, apply.
Over the last 30 years, tuition costs have soared for a variety of reasons. State funding cuts, expanding administrative staffs, and increased construction and facility costs all play a role. As a result, the average student debt among college graduates is now close to $28,000.
College is important for many reasons, including increased career stability and satisfaction, and the ability to make an impact on your community. With more and more careers requiring advanced education, a college degree can be critical to your success in today's workforce.
Most bachelor's degree programs require 120 college credits. At a four-year institution granting an average of three credits per class, that's five classes per semester. Many institutions require more than 120 credit hours to graduate, with some programs exceeding 140 total credit hours