College … Is There a Choice?

Let’s Figure it out with Danny Figueroa

Maybe you had this conversation. “Dad, I’ve decided not to go to college so I can start working to make some money. All my friends are going college to rack up lots of debt and learn stuff they won’t even use in the real world.”

“Son, in this competitive world you need at least a bachelor’s degree. Don’t flip burgers for the rest of your life. No matter what happens, no one can ever take your degree away from you.”

Is the father correct or the son? The father wants his son to go college because he thinks it will secure success, but the son thinks he can be successful without it.

There is an alternative for those who choose not to go to a four-year college, and the fact of the matter is you don’t need a college degree to be successful. For years it’s been ingrained in our culture that everyone needs to have a bachelors degree, but in today’s economy, real world education is even more valuable.

There is no doubt a BA will make it easier to find a job, and does make individuals more marketable in the workforce, but it will not guarantee success.  It will however guarantee debt, which most people are willing to incur for the price of a degree.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the total average cost for a four-year public college education is around $45,000 and is rising quickly, and for a private institution, $100,000.

What’s important about college? Lots of employers see college as a test to see if a person can meet challenges to completion, and those who manage higher-paying jobs don’t want hire people who aren’t proven in the classroom, especially in math and other difficult courses. The driven student who learns these skills will have a solid theoretical foundation.

For the driven individual who chooses not to go to college, real-world experience is just as important, and learning from mistakes from the school of hard knocks as invaluable. An education is important to learn practical skills, but today the education that earns significant money is self-education found many times outside the classroom. For these driven individuals, all they need is a foot in the door.

Michael Dell dropped out of college at 19 to found the most profitable PC manufacturer in the world. To think PC Limited, which later became Dell Inc started with only $1,000.

Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and Steve Jobs founder of Apple computers both dropped out of college.  Steve Jobs only attended one semester of college and is responsible of bringing to the world the iPod, iTunes, and iPhones.

Henry Ford and Walt Disney dropped out of school at the age of 16.  Henry Ford became a machinist apprentice and started Ford Motor Company that revolutionized the automobile industry and today Walt Disney Company makes $30 billion a
year.

For many who choose an alternative to a four-year college, there are plenty of careers that pay quite nicely, some requiring only an Associates degree. Jobs such as electronics repair technicians, machinists, auto repair technicians, and jobs in the nursing field and information technology can quickly launch anyone into the job market.

For those who don’t have college as an option, society is best served by promoting alternatives. The promotion that everyone needs a college degree has had a negative impact on how the state promotes alternatives. Only 0.4 percent of schools in North Carolina are vocational schools compared to the national average of 1.4 percent.

North Carolina schools are ill equipped to meet the fastest growing jobs segment, ones that only require a high school diploma and on the job training. The Employment Security Commission predicts this growth will last through 2016, but there will be shortages in nursing, carpentry, electricians, plumbers, mechanics and other vocations.

One must ultimately choose between real world self-education and college. If the only reason one goes to college is to have a decent wage after graduation, then there needs to be recognition of alternatives to college for those who can’t or choose not to attend.

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