PITTSBURGH — Just in time for National Aviation Day on Aug. 19, Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics has landed the No. 1 position on Forbes’ second annual list of the nation’s Top Two-Year Trade Schools, which ranks academics, postgrad salary and debt load.
Forbes notes that PIA alumni outearn students from two thirds of Forbes’ highest-ranked four-year colleges at a fraction of the price.
In an article published with the list, The Tiny Trade-School Ivy Outperforming Top Four-Year Colleges, Forbes’ Carter Coudriet cites that “in a job market that is only getting more competitive for the growing number of bachelor’s holders, an exemplary institution like PIA is exactly what’s needed by many students who aren’t thrilled by the prospect of spending another four years reading Shakespeare or grinding away at calculus. A top-tier trade school is a better option for lots of high school grads than either community college or a middling four-year program. Both of those paths can leave students mired in debt while pursuing a marginally practical degree.”
Forbes also published a video interview with Suzanne Markle, president and CEO of the non-profit PIA.
“We have a lot of college graduates coming out who can’t pay their student loans,” says Markle, 42, who started at the school in 1999 as an instructor. “Here we have this technical school that has a program that is attainable by many that, for the return on investment, is amazing. The job opportunities are so plentiful.”
According to the Department of Labor, the number of aircraft and avionics equipment maintenance technicians required in the U.S. will jump 5% over the next decade. The median pay in America is currently $61,260 a year, more than the Census Bureau’s median household income figure of $57,617.
For PIA, which has a near 100% acceptance rate, the mission is to get its students jobs in the expanding aviation industry. With equipment that includes about a dozen aircraft and more than 40 engines, the school puts students through a rigorous hands-on associate degree program in either aviation maintenance or electronics.
Through a special exemption granted to PIA, participants in the seven-quarter maintenance program can take eight of the nine FAA certification tests necessary to maintain planes before they graduate. That’s enough to get 87% of PIA’s students jobs within six months of graduation, according to school officials.
Four years after graduation PIA alumni earn a median of $42,200, according to the College Scorecard database of financial aid recipients. After another four years, they’re making $53,600.
Employer partnerships play a key role in both education and outcomes for the PIA student who often attend events where hiring employers outnumber available graduates, school officials said. Recent graduate employment and partnerships include Delta Air Lines, Allegiant, Constant Aviation, Piedmont, Airborne Maintenance & Engineering Services, ExpressJet, and Republic Airways Holdings to name some of the employers.
About Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics
The school was opened by Glenn Curtiss and Orville Wright in 1927 as Curtiss-Wright Flying Service, and became PIA in 1929. Today, PIA is a non-profit, career-focused family of schools offering programs in Aviation Maintenance and Aviation Electronics. PIA offers an Associate in Specialized Technology Degree at its Pennsylvania location and diploma programs in Youngstown, Ohio, Hagerstown, Maryland, and Myrtle Beach, S.C.