Many parents have the dream of their children attending a four-year college, obtaining a degree, and becoming productive members of society. However, a university education is not the only path to success and for some, it may not be the best path.
The cost of a college degree is soaring. According to the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, 44 million Americans owe $1.41 trillion in student loan debt, as of June 2018. That is a 139% increase, up from $820 billion, in just the last 10 years!
The mikeroweWORKS Foundation started the Profoundly Disconnected campaign to challenge the traditional belief that a four-year degree is the only way for students to become successful adults. Mike Rowe says, “The Skills Gap is here, and if we do not close it, it will swallow us all.”
Some of the main issues talked about by this campaign are:
- The trillion dollars of student loan debt.
- High unemployment for 4-year degree graduates.
- Three million good jobs that no one seems to want.
Alternatives to a Four-Year Degree
Students can earn a trade certificate when they take courses designated to support a specific professional/technical trade. These are usually the trades that Mike Rowe says people do not seem to want, such as welding, HVAC, brick masonry, plumbing, carpentry, electrician, and so on.
Furthermore, employers often pay the tuition for employees to earn trade certificates all while providing a source of income and on-the-job training in the form of apprenticeships. This allows students to not only complete the coursework but also gain the field experience necessary to be a marketable job candidate once they are finished.
A college degree typically requires additional general education courses that, in my opinion, may not apply to the desired career path. Examples include more general math, English, science, and writing courses. The more courses that are required, the longer the degree takes to finish, the more it costs.
A community or technical college is significantly less expensive. This, in my opinion, may not be a correlation to the quality of education received, but more related to the reduced number of bells and whistles associated with the school.
Something else that needs to be taken into account is the tremendous amount of debt that can be incurred while attending a traditional four-year college. From books and tuition to room and board, the numbers can quickly get out of hand. The underlying issue is that these students graduate with their four-year degrees, but have large amounts of debt and very little job experience. To top it off they have received little to no financial education on how to deal with this debt and start their adult lives.
We have a financial illiteracy epidemic in this county. Personal finances are generally not taught in elementary and secondary school, and are rarely taught as a basic life course in any post-secondary education setting, either.
There are many options available to help our children on the path to success. Students need a good education that leads to meaningful employment. However, it is not always necessary to go into debt to achieve it!