Barton accelerated career programs lead to higher wage jobs, little or no debt

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February 17, 2017
Story by Micah Oelze
Graphic by Connie Wagner

CTE Month 2017: This feature is the final of four stories to be released by Barton Community College in February in celebration of Career Technical Education (CTE) Month.

CTE Month® is an annual celebration held in February of CTE community members’ achievements and accomplishments nationwide. CTE Month 2017, with its tagline of "Celebrate Today, Own Tomorrow!" gives colleges the chance to inform others of the innovation and excellence that exists within local CTE programs and raise awareness of the crucial role that CTE plays in readying our students for careers and our nation for economic success.

Barton accelerated career programs lead to higher wage jobs, little or no debt

Graduating with a mountain of student debt is a common worry amongst parents and students. The Institute for College Access and Success reported the average student debt in the state of Kansas from four-year institutions is $28,008.

For some students, the debt is worth the pursuit of a dream career. For others, it is a terrifying burden they fear must be taken on to begin any solid career. Barton Community College offers an alternative; career technical education programs in numerous fields, which promise good wages for far less investment of time and money. Three of these options are Corrections, Welding and Natural Gas Transmission and Distribution.


The welding industry is expected to grow four percent from 2014-2024 with a median salary of $38,150 per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 16-credit-hour welding certificate program at Barton costs about $3,222 for tuition, course fees and a gear kit. This program allows students to get certified and in the field after one semester.

 “The study load will allow students to hold down a full-time job and complete the academic requirements,” said Ovie Cade, Barton’s Welding Instructor.

Being able to hold a job while attending school is important for potential students to note as it helps to pay for the education they are receiving to graduate with as little debt as possible.

Cade attended on-the-job training and worked on a certificate program at the same time when he started. With dedication and passion, he became a success in the welding field quickly.

“I started off at minimum wage and I worked myself up to top paid level in the welding industry within three to five years,” Cade said. “There is always room to move up in the industry.”

Natural Gas Transmission and Distribution

Barton’s Natural Gas Transmission and Distribution program is an accelerated Associate Degree earned within a year. The program is 64 credit hours and the program costs about $6,656 total. The field has a projected job outlook of 15 percent growth from 2012-2022 with a median wage of $54,420, per

“Most students are able to handle the credit load,” said Vince Orth, Natural Gas Transmission and Distribution instructor. “We teach 8 to 5, five days a week. One week is three credits; you only have to study and worry about one book at a time for the first semester.”

While the full-time schooling method may appear intense, Orth wishes it were an option while he was in school. The ability to take the first semester to focus on one subject at a can be incredibly helpful. Waking up to go to school from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. also prepares students for the workforce where they will always be expected to arrive on time ready to work.

“You must be dedicated and dependable to get in our field,” he said. “The reason they pay well is because they expect a lot out of you.”

Orth said if a graduate is a hard worker, moving up is never out of the question.

“You can definitely better yourself, put in for promotions and most will allow you to put in for transfers within 12 months,” he said.


Barton’s Corrections Associate Degree program costs $7,072 and takes two years to complete. Correctional Officers (CO) earn a median wage of $40,580 a year and have a projected job outlook of four percent growth from 2014-2024 per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Like most careers, the opportunity for promotion is available to any motivated employee. The first promotion usually happens within six months. From this point, COs can look for ways to move up the ladder.

“The progression could go from a regular CO all the way up to running the entire security of the facility as the Major of Security,” said Will Rains, Coordinator of Correctional Education Services.

Students who are already employed by the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) often use the degree and certification for promotions. Those students who are already employed by KDOC are looking to promote from a CO to Sergeant or as a correction counselor for a more regular work schedule and due to the changing landscape of corrections.

Corrections has been evolving over the past few years from security-minded warehousing of offenders into providing treatment and focusing on the recidivism rate. Barton’s program is built to help students stay ahead of the curve.

“This program encompasses the entire spectrum of corrections, from case management to mental health in order to assist transitions from security into other areas of corrections,” he said. “If a student wants to stay in security then they are building those skills too while gaining a well-rounded understanding of the corrections world.”

Barton Career Fair

CTE month will culminate with a Career Technical Education Fair from 1-3 p.m. March 1 in the Case New Holland Shop in the Northeast side of the Technical building. Registration opens at 12:30 p.m. and optional campus tours start at 10:30 a.m.

The fair is available for 8th grade students, high school students, current Barton students, community members and will feature demonstrations, hands-on-activities, refreshments, prizes and photo ops with the Barton mascot.  To sign up, contact Denise Schreiber at (620) 792-9324 or