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OT - College education

Aniki's picture

Yay or Nay - do you think a college education is necessary?

I say Nay. I'm the youngest of five. My siblings all have degrees. I do not. One sibling got a 4-year degree at a $$$ school and became a housewife. Another spent 14 years in college for a prestigious position. I actually make more money.

One of my brothers pushed his son to go to college. My nephew struggled for 3 years, then told his parents "no more". Nephew went from job to job, learning skills. He finally saved up enough money to go to trucking school and have been driving for over 5 years now. He and his wife just bought their first house. 

I don't understand the push for people to attend college. Not everyone is cut out for it and not every job requires a degree. Trades are suffering because so many are chasing the Degree Dream.

Thoughts?

Comments

ESMOD's picture

I would personally like to see more of a return in Corporate America where a 4 year degree is not a prerequisite for almost every job.  Shoot, when I was younger, I applied for a promotion from receptionist to an actuary and had passed the entrance test to become one.  However.. I was not promoted because while the job I was applying for didn't require a degree.. they wanted one for further advancement.. so I didn't get it.  Needless to say, I have since gotten my 4 year as well as a masters in accounting.. though I do not work in accounting anymore.  But, I was smart enough that with training... there is no reason why I wouldn't have succeeded at that level or beyond.

The cost of college has skyrocketed with the ease of loan grants the schools CAN charge more.  They have become like a business.. polishing themselves up with fancy ammenities to attract customers.. I mean students who come to them with fat pockets full of loan money. It's not too different than the way healthcare costs skyrocketed due to the availaiblity of insurance coverages.  

A college education can be valuable.  And.. I have encouraged both my SD's to pursue it.. but to do so at a pace that their employers will reimburse them.  My OSD didn't make it far.. but my YSD is now almost done with her associate's degree and has zero debt.

But.. they both have decent jobs and make decent money.

I do think that there should be more emphasis on trades that can offer lucrative salaries.  I think a lot of looking down on blue collar workers is misplaced.  Believe me.. not starting out with 75K in debt is probably a lot smarter than getting that degree and working at PANERA.

Gimlet's picture

I agree completely.  

Many tech jobs as well.  You can learn just as much with certifications and experience as with a degree, often more.  Show me a motivated, smart person and I'll take them any day, degree or no degree.  

College is not for everyone and trades are vastly underrated.

Aniki's picture

I've spent most of my career getting experience by learning on the job. There was NO schooling available to do what I did - you learned by trial and error. To this day, there are things I know from experience that baffle the college grads. But I've spent my life fighting to do the best job I can by diving into the trenches and thinking outside of the box. 

The first company I worked, the president at the time started out as a driver at 16yo. He got a college degree when he was in his 40s - and was already a manager of managers. Which proves it's never too late to go back to school! Smile

Merry's picture

Depends on one's goal in life. Do you need a college education to be a happy, successful, contributing, fulfilled individual? No, absolutely not.

But I am a big proponent of a college education, if someone has the ability and wants to pursue it. Just finishing a degree, any degree, requires a certain amount of fortitude and there is all sorts of learning going on, inside and outside the classroom. Just because someone prefers to be a housewife or SAHM doesn't mean the education wasn't useful. 

But I agree, it's not for everybody and shouldn't be a marker of success or failure.

Full disclosure: I've worked in higher education my whole career and love it. I know I'm biased but I have seen so many success stories. But there are also student debt horror stories too.

Dawn-Moderator's picture

with this 100%.

Aniki's picture

I'm 55 and still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. But I've been toying with the idea of going back to the school trenches to get a degree. I simply have no idea WHAT.

ETA...

There is NOTHING wrong with wanted to be an educated SAHM/D. Hey, maybe that person will homeschool some day. My own dear Mom was a SAHM. The reason I brought up my sister going to an expensive school and becoming a housewife is because her GOAL was to get married and be a housewife. She did not need an expensive education to obtain that goal. Money was tight for my parents and my Dad took out a loan to send her to that school. 

ESMOD's picture

back in the day men went to college to get a degree.. their BA, MBA, PHD.. Women were sent to college to get their "MRS".

lol.

I wish that it was easier for people to get their foot in the door at a ground level with companies that would be willing to send them to school over time.. based on their continued good employee performance.

think about the Accounting/Finance arena.  Certainly, you could be hired as a clerk in payroll..or AP.. etc.. and your employer could pay for a few classes a year while you also learn on the job.

I have a masters in accounting.. most of what I do I have learned at the desk here.. not in a classroom.

same with my YSD who is the north american payroll specialist for her company.. worked her way up from the yard as an 18 yo.. they have been covering her tuition as she had time for classes.. and ultimately we hope she will end up with a degree.

Aniki's picture

ESMOD, that's what my sister did - got her MRS! lol

I would have LOVED to take classes to further my career, but there were none available for what I did (not going to say what because it's unique and can "out" me). I'm finally in a position where I can advance my career with classes that build on my current job, but there are a few options and I don't know which fork in the road to take.

somethingwicked's picture

What do you mean you don't know what you want to be when you grow up? You are a big beautiful Valkyrie ~ much admired by friends and envied by foes esp that  flatulent HoBag.Who,btw ,try as she might ,  cannot hold a candle to you..but if she tried Lordy she would blow the state to kingdom come.Methane is flammable and explosive under pressure! Ho should never play with any fire source!

Nea

Smile

xo

Gimlet's picture

I also agree with you, Merry!

I do think that degrees are great for broadening your horizons and for critical thinking.  I can tell you that I don't regret the debt I'm still paying back for my degree and I'm also helping my DD through grad school, so I do value education.

I just think it's not attainable or affordable for some and there are better options for them than going to school and hating it (and racking up debt) instead of going into a trade.

I also think community college is a great option.  We have some terrific associates programs in allied medicine and such at our local cc and it's really affordable.

 

Aniki's picture

What I think would be VERY useful is some sort of aptitude testing that showed people where their strengths lie and how those strenghts work is XYZ fields. That would have been a YUGE help for me.

I have more than one friend who got a degree only to find they HATE the actual job/field. One is now a gardener and is in fertilizer heaven!

Gimlet's picture

Agreed!  I finished my degree in my 30's because I was a knucklehead at 18 and had no idea what I was doing.  

Merry's picture

Totally agree about community college for sure.

I got my ass handed to me when my own DD flunked out of Presigious University and she drifted around for awhile. (I worked at Prestigious U.) She needed to get a job, go back to school, or do something in order to live at my house. She chose part time school, part time job. Fine. Enrolled at local cc, in general studies. What the hell would she do with THAT? But I had the good sense to kept my opinions to myself. Well, she found a path that she LOVES.

Finished her bachelors degree, has a 4.0 in her master's program, and just applied to a doctoral program. So I've become a huge supporter of community colleges. Know what she wants to do? Support underprepared/struggling students and pay it forward.

Petronella's picture

That's a great story, Merry! Prestigious University is definitely NOT the right path for many people. 

Gimlet's picture

Yay for your DD and good for you for giving her options and letting her find her path.  That's such a balance as a parent.  Her path sounds pretty awesome. 

My DD is getting her MFA and while conventional wisdom would say to worry, I'm honestly not worried.  Her side hustle has a side hustle.

Aniki's picture

LUV that!!! Such a cool story.

I wish that's what I could have done. I spent 2 years in college, then dropped out to go to work FT. 

Livingoutloud's picture

I believe education or training is important, which could include vocational training not necessarily a degree.

Now college degree is absolutely necessary for the type of career you want.

Both I and DH wouldn’t be able to have careers of our choices if we had no degrees. Same for my DD and the rest of my family. Our choices of careers require college degrees.

In my DH’s family he is the only one with education. Now some people in his family are doing ok because they chose careers where they learn on a job and they work hard. Several of them regret not having degrees because they reached the ceiling. Many people in his family always struggled and hop jobs simply because they never had a career.

being a truck driver isn’t an easy job but it’s respectable job and it does require training. Most certainly it doesn’t require college. If that’s what one chooses to do, that’s what needs to do 

in my opinion it’s what you choose to do for life and also what you capable of doing what matters when you make your choice of schooling/training. And it should drive one’s  choices. Not what other people think. Personally I can’t care less that people think college degree is not important. That would mean I wouldn’t do what I want to do. So I believe in personal choices 

Petronella's picture

I believe education or training is important, which could include vocational training not necessarily a degree.

I agree with this. For a number of reasons in today's society, ending your education at high school graduation, is just not sufficient any more nowadays, unless you want to work restaurants or retail for the rest of your days. There are so many great career options out there, some of them require a university degree while some require a shorter, cheaper course at trade school or community college. 

My daughter was fortunate enough to attend a high school that had really good guidance counselers, and a required class in "Planning" which included all kinds of information about possible post-secondary options and scholarships. So she knew which classes were required for the "college track" and what grades she'd need to maintain, and where, when and how to apply for the programs she was interested in. It's so important to set up young people for success! 

My stepkids on the other hand, either didn't have as good a guidance counselling service at their school, or else they chose to disregard the advice they were given. Not one of them won any scholarships at graduation (one dropped out altogether) nor applied to any post-secondary education. They have since worked various counter-service jobs. They have expressed interest in "going back to school" but IMO it's harder to get that educational momentum back once you've been out of school for years. I do have hopes for them though, they do seem to have some concrete plans now.

Aniki's picture

Pet, I believe guidance counseling is of GREAT importance. Sadly, there are too many out there who are not good it, don't care, or end up with kids who don't care/aren't interested. :/

Aniki's picture

I believe in personal choices

Agreed 1000%. Had I been allowed to attend the college of my choice, my path would have bee veeeeeery different. I met my psycho exh at the college I attended for 2 years (NO degree). The only thing that 2 years got me was the knowledge of what I could NOT choose for a career.

Iamwoman's picture

No. College is not necessary for everyone.

It is necessary for some.

For those who plan on a trade, this national push for "everyone to go to college" that started in the late 2000's only hurts those that don't have what it takes to get through, or those who want to do something that doesn't require a degree.

Our school district is rewarded government funds (as I assume all are) for every senior accepted to a college or university. 
So once again, it isn't about what's best for kids/adults, it's about the Benjamins.

Aniki's picture

hurts those that don't have what it takes to get through, or those who want to do something that doesn't require a degree.

This was my nephew. My brother and SIL rode his arse because his grades were Bs and Cs. He simply was NOT interested. He'd had a desire to be an OTR trucker for YEARS. What's sad is that they refused to pay for tthe trucking school - and it cost less than college semester! Since nephew dropped out of college, he was kicked out for not following his parents' wishes. They were estranged for almost 18 years and have only recently begun reconciling. 

Livingoutloud's picture

I attended both undergraduate and graduate schools as not a traditional student. Worked full time while raising a kid, attended part time, nights, weekends, blah blah So did my DH. I don’t buy it when people say they didn’t go because of their mom and dad or schools for rich people. Baloney.

If you want to go you can go. At any age. Many classes are online now. Sure might need to borrow money. Take loans. Be tired 24/7. Take longer than normal etc

No, it’s not unattainable or unaffordable. It’s hard and expensive but one can do it 

Livingoutloud's picture

No I already said earlier that’s necessary for one’s career choice only if that career requires a degree. If one’s career choice doesn’t require college degree, then there is no point to get one. 

I was replying to comments that college is unaffordable and unattainable and that is simply incorrect. If one wants a degree and is cognitively capable, then he or she can get a degree. 

 

Gimlet's picture

Right, but what you're saying requires an element of hard work and sacrifice, and then the ability to pay the loans back.   If I didn't have a good job, the loans would be a much bigger burden than they are.   I also did the work full time, raise a kid, go to school thing.  

And I said unattainable for some people because they don't want to put the work in or just don't want to attend.  Trade school is a solid choice for them.

Edit: to be clear, I'm not saying people who don't want to go college are not smart, talented, or anything like that.  It's ok that it's not for everyone.  

Aniki's picture

unattainable for some people because they don't want to put the work in or just don't want to attend

EXACTLY. 

I'm guessing Livingoutloud is saying Yay???

Livingoutloud's picture

If one went to college and still doesn’t  have a job with somewhat decent income, then they did something wrong. Wrong degree. Wrong career pathway. Wrong priorities. I’d say in this cases getting a degree is unwise as it is a waste of money and time 

 

HowLongIsForever's picture

This is such a tough one for me.  I understand the current "need" for a degree for the career minded these days.

Straight from high school to college makes the most sense in a generic timeline but how many kidults can make the right guess on, as Aniki says, what they want to be when they grow up?  How do you know at that age that your chosen career path is ultimately compatible with your future?  Life rarely plays out the way we envision as young adults.  

A business degree is the new communications degree of decades past.  Around here getting your foot in the door doesn't necessarily require a related degree, just any degree.  I'm not sure for what purpose since based on my decades in the auto industry its not unusual for those with the pretty degrees to be missing significant business acumen - even before you take the global economy into account.  Severely lacking feels like an understatement.  A degree in underwater basket weaving will check the box.

And it all seems absurd to me considering the sacrifices made by those who pursue degrees through graduation.  It's a very expensive rite of passage... for what?

Studies have shown us time and again that a degree unlocks a greater earning potential.  But the associated wealth has all but disappeared. 

Cost of college has increased by a factor of 14 in the last, I think it was, 40 years that I read recently.  It is a huge reason (though certainly not the only) more recent generations struggle as much as they do.  You can't get an entry level job without a degree, you can't afford to pay cash for it but can't get a job to cover payments if you go the loan route and still manage to support yourself and start accumulating assets and wealth - at least not to the extent of any prior generations.

I think continuing education, of any form, is hugely important.  Both personally and professionally.  But I can't get behind it being a basic requirement to enter the professional world, not with the current system.

Aniki's picture

There is also this catch-22... You have a degree, but no experience so no one will hire you. But you can't GET the experience because no one will hire you! 

A zillion years ago, one of my brothers went through a program that had you going to school half of the week and working the job the other half. The only way you could get into that company was to be able to afford the classes. OUCH. It worked out well for him, but it not an option for everyone. 

I haven't even LOOKED at pirce, but alreay worry that I cannot afford to go back and get a degree without going into debt. Which can be a catch-22 in itself. If you have debt AND are paying on some $$$$ medical bills, you can't get (yet) another loan to to go school. It's dizzying.

Livingoutloud's picture

Your other non government debts or medical bills do not effect your ability to get department of education loans. Didn’t effect mine. They don’t look into that. It’s a federal loan, not a private loan 

also in regards to experience, there are internships that help with experience. Also one can work while in college.

Everyone in my family has a college degree in different fields and none was unable to get a job. Some did internships or worked through college and some got jobs right after colleges.

It’s an old tale how college graduates can’t get a job. It’s often used to discourage others or oneself to get education.   

Aniki's picture

Medical debt can affect your ability to repay a loan. I know a number of people who have been unable to get a job in their chosen field. Doesn't work out for everyone. ~shrugs~

HowLongIsForever's picture

Pursuing a part time degree, in your lower level undergrad courses (first 54 credit hours) going to school part time at my alma mater is just over $2,300 for a 3 credit hour class.  That's before the $164 mandatory fees or the hundreds of dollars in books and technology fees.  $1,026 for the first hour, $642 each additional hour.  300 level course = $2,310.  $2,474 with your mandatory fees.  For one class.  Pushing $6,400 for 9 credit hours.  A minimum of 120 credits to graduate = 13 semesters of 9 credits and a little extra.

If you're working full time in the fast food industry you're making somewhere around $11/hour.  If you're lucky enough to pull in a consistent 40 hours a week your take home will be roughly $350/week.  The $1,400/mo needs to cover your transportation costs, clothing, food, housing and repayment of your student loan.  In this area? It's not feasible.

Campus sprawls across the city, housing is cripplingly expensive so you commute.  We have the highest auto insurance rates in the country along with some of the highest gas taxes and worst roads due to the trucks.  Fuel and maintenance costs can be rough - even for, or maybe especially for, the cheap beater you could afford to buy and insure.  Rent, even outside of the city, is high.  A one bedroom apartment can be had in the upper $700s if you're not interested in any amenities.  If you're hoping for laundry onsite and any type of secure entrance you're over $1,000. Plus utilities.  On the cheap end you're looking at $800 in rent, $200 in your gas tank, $100 on your utilities.  You have to eat, clothe yourself.  Your budget is gone before you get anywhere near tuition.  Deferral only lasts so long.

You manage. However long it happens to take.  Maybe you got a raise or a better job or a second job.  But you have no savings to speak of and since your tuition costs were actually more by going part time you have graduated with roughly $85,000 tied to that degree.

With unemployment at 2.9% in the area (compared to 4.1% average for the state) it takes a minute to find a job after graduation so the little bit of breathing room your raise afforded you doesn't even scratch the surface of your repayment plan.  When you finally start your shiny new grown up job you're making $50,000 so your take home is roughly $37,500. You don't change your housing or transportation costs so after the basics you're working with about $24,000/year.  Your student loan payment is $978/month.

That leaves you with $241/week to live on.  Meaning food, clothes, health insurance, savings, retirement, vehicle maintenance and the credit cards you started leveraging when you blew a tire on that huge pothole and your $100+/mo parking fees came due.  Oh and the couple of months you had to charge basic expenses to be able to start making your student loan payments.

Can it be done? Sure.  People do it all the time with far more difficult scenarios.  Should people have to live in poverty through exhaustion just to check the box? And then be so harshly judged for their decision either way? Kinda messed up.

I paid out of pocket as I went, I took advantage of the full time rates and petitioned every semester to be able to register for 21 credit hours.  It didn't always work.  I had a $400 book in one class (that I couldn't sell back for crap).  I had 6 other classes that semester.  All requiring books, though none as ridiculous as my business law class.  I was in school 6 days a week, full time both summer semesters when the classes were available, at work 50 hours a week and raising a child I didn't give birth to on my own.  I made $46,000 the first year I went to college.  My EFC as an independent was over $1,000/mo.  After rent, utilities, groceries, gas money (no car payment), my blue cross blue shield (before ACA) and my EFC I had $100 left over.  With a child.

Take the baby out of the equation, try to save for a house, car repairs (or a new to you car), have an emergency savings account or heck any savings account when your take home equates to $18/hour and your student loan payment is more than your chitty apartment.

I don't blame kids for not doing it.  And I feel terrible for the ones that do only to never be able to get out from under it.  I wouldn't do it again, honestly.  I don't use my own experience in an attempt to influence anyone else's decision on higher education.  That experience is uniquely mine.  It's not like it ruined continued learning for me.  I continue to pursue further education outside of that degree - a mix of business and pleasure.  

I don't assume anyone without a degree is a lesser person, someone looking for excuses or someone who made poor choices in life, though.  I don't judge anyone that isn't willing or able to pursue in a similar manner.  Not everyone is afforded the same resources, monetarily or otherwise.  It doesn't make them lesser than.  Hard working, decent people are just that - hard working, decent people.  They deserve respect and compassion, especially from the "educated" among us that should know better.    

 

 

Livingoutloud's picture

If you are still going to school you don’t need to repaying loans. You don’t start replaying until you are 6 months out of school or later if you get deferment due to low income and financial difficulty.

if you are only going to school part time you aren’t at school all day, so you might need to work somewhere that pays more than McDonalds. Especially when you are in upper grades. 

You might need to go to community college and obtain associate degree first and then transfer it further. You can get all your gen ed courses in community college. One of my nephew did that, community colleges are cheap and could be paid out of pocket as you go. One of my nephews did that and only had to take loan in the last two years of university. Last two years of school he worked paid internship in his field. He is now a very successful engineer 

Mang universities are offering entire degrees online. I personally encourage people not to go that route if they can. Those degrees typically aren’t the same as attending normally but it’s a good solution when one can’t travel to school.

agsin it’s not easy and not everyone needs to have a degree but if one’s dream is for example to be an engineer or teacher or nurse and he is now being discouraged because he’d have to take a loan or come with other ways to manage, that just not necessarily wise to discourage them 

no not having a degree doesn’t make one a lesser person whatsoever. And vice versa

Livingoutloud's picture

I don’t know too many people who attend college through all kind of hardships in order “to check the box”.

Most people I know attend college so they can have career path of their choice. I think it’s pretty self explanatory that if you want to be .... (insert hundreds of professions) you need to get a degree

this thread made it sound as having a degree is some kind  frivolous or useless choice and not your way to become who you want to be 

sure if you only want a degree to check some box is a goofy  thing to do. I didn’t even know there is a box to check 

HolyBucketsIt'sCrazy's picture

The trades are excellent and not encouraged nearly enough. My Skids (SS30 and SD26) both went to prestigious universities with hefty price tags and both have Bachelors Degrees. Both picked majors that have little to no opportunity to actually get a job. Both are unemployed. 

My DS19 did really well in high school, but college just wasn't his thing. He likes to work with his hands and is very handy. So he is an apprentice to be an electrician. 5 year program that he's getting paid (and paid well) as he goes. (Current 5th year apprentices are making $35/hr). They pay for his classes, books, health insurance, and pay into 3 pensions.  Plus 3 weeks paid vacation. He'll be done at 23 and making $125K to start with no debt.  I encourage everyone who is not what you'd consider "college material" to consider a trade. 

Gimlet's picture

Yes!  My DH has been telling OSS for years to consider a trade.  They also aren't going anywhere.  People will need electricians and plumbers and HVAC for the foreseeable future.  They won't be "downsized" because quarterly earnings fell short. And they make great money!  Good for your DS!!

HolyBucketsIt'sCrazy's picture

His older step siblings try to turn up their nose at his "blue collar career choice". He just laughed and said don't bother asking for a job or a loan from him because they can't get their s!$t together. I love that kid! So proud of him!

Aniki's picture

His older step siblings try to turn up their nose

I will NEVER understand that. It's good, honest work. He's not out stealing! Sheesh.

HolyBucketsIt'sCrazy's picture

I know right? They on the other hand are hot messes of Epic proportions (both alcoholics and dug abusers).... but hey - they were educated at the best universities so in their alcohol drug soaked brains think they are so much better than everyone else. The entitlement and denial is absurd. My DS just laughs at them because "we both know who the real losers are, mom"

Aniki's picture

Oh, an education at one of the BEST universities makes everything right with the universe! *wacko*

HolyBucketsIt'sCrazy's picture

I figure the only job they can get is on the shit show network - because those 2 could be the hosts. 

Aniki's picture

Welcome to the Sh!t Show where we talk about nonsensical sh!t! We're OVER qualified because we have a bullsh!t degree from BSU!

Aniki's picture

Sounds like my niece! She spent 7 years in college to get a degree in a field that requires you to be the best-of-the-best to get a job making GOOD money. Her grades were mediocre. She now works at Walmart. Whereas my nephew went to trade (trucking) school and is going great.

Maybe I should become a plumber. Naaaaaah. I don't think I could deal with other people's poo poo...

Crspyew's picture

I agree with most that not all are cut out for college and there is a staggering need for technicians, artisans, and plumbers, electricians, etc.  in our area we've seen a resurgence of technical training capability in our community college system.  My son has several IT certifications that opened the door to a great well paying job.  My oldest skid is in the auto body business where skilled painters are in high demand and in his area can make over $150k per year.

I finished college at 50.  I was already well established in my career and making very good money.  My degree was a personal goal.  I will say that my college courses greatly improved my critical and analytical thinking skills.

AlmostGone83's picture

I don't even use my teaching degree (and there are plenty of openings in that field). I just make way more money not using it. 

Livingoutloud's picture

But that’s the whole point. One can make choices. You don’t want to teach and you want to make more money not teaching, so in your case you really didn’t need that degree. But others might choose to do something that makes less money but they still want to do it, so it’s again personal choice. Not everyone  is born to do everything. A friend of mine is a lawyer and obviously makes more than me. But I have zero interest in law and would rather get paid less to do stuff I like. Hence I’d not go to law school lol 

DPW's picture

Previous career: no degree, corporate america, consulting, worked my way up fast to $140,000 per year

New career: mandatory 4 year university degree, social services, mental health, starting at $25 per hour.... Sad

Which scenario would you say is more successful?

Does quality of life come into play?

I see both sides of the issue. I can support someone opting in or opting out of getting a degree. There are also so many variables to consider (financial, goal career, timing) that I really think it's a personalized, individual decision to make. 

 

Livingoutloud's picture

Agree.

I’d say it’s important to make enough money to be able to pay bills but one should also do what they enjoy. If your job brings you satisfaction and you can support yourself,  then it’s all good (even if you don’t make loads of money and don’t live lavishly). DH and I don’t make loads of money but we do what we love and for that we need college degrees and state licensing. So I believe in balance and making choices to fit one’s life style and preferences 

SMto2's picture

One of my favorite jokes is about the doctor who calls a plumber to fix a clogged drain at his house. The plumber fixes it in an hour and hands the doctor a bill for $600. The doctor looks at it and exclaims, " I'm a doctor and I don't make that much in an hour," to which the plumber replies, "Neither did I when I was a doctor." Lol! So, NO, I don't think a college degree is necessary to earn a very good living, assuming that's what you meant by the question. I think whether an individual should go to college depends on a lot of factors, including what the individual wants to do, how many years of study they're willing to undergo, how willing they are to take on debt for education if necessary and where they live.

There are many, many jobs that can be obtained through trade or vocational school or other training (plumbers, welders, electricians, etc) that don't require as many years of study (so less debt is likely) and also provide a very good living. I went to law school because I grew up dirt poor and wanted out of that life, and 25 years ago in my state, being a lawyer practically guaranteed a very comfortable life, and fortunately, that's been the case, and pretty much still is where we live. Still, I would never dissuade one of my children who wanted to go to trade school from doing that.

The bigger issue I think is, unlike 50 or more years ago, a person who does not have a college degree, trade school, vocational school or other training/certification will have a hard time getting a full-time job that pays well, offers benefits and is sustainable long-term. The majority of people without any education or training are pretty much left to fast food or retail jobs, most of which pay little more than minimum wage and deliberately hire many part-time workers to avoid paying benefits. Work conditions are poor and people bounce from job to job. That's what we see my SS24 and his DW doing, and I pray he actually finishes his online degree and gets a decent job, although I have my doubts that he'll actually finish or that his "degree" will actually lead to a career. If nothing else, he's been a very good example to use with my DSs as to why they NEED some sort of real education or training. Lol.

Aniki's picture

I've heard that joke many times! LOL

It seems too many fail to realize the value (and profit) of trades. I hear the push for "degree, degree, degree", but no push for plumber or welder or bricklayer or electrician. Those skills are valuable and NEEDED. A degree is not the be-all, end-all.

lieutenant_dad's picture

I think the US just needs to revamp their education system. By high school, you should have tracks that allow you to pursue what you want AND BE SUCCESSFUL at it. Wanna work in a trade? There's a diploma track for that. Wanna get your Associate's degree in something so you can work and decide if you really want to stay in that field? There's a track for that. Going into STEM? There's a track for that. I think *some* high schools are starting to do this, but that needs to be a major overhaul everywhere.

I cannot tell you how absolutely PISSED I was that I had to take "core classes" like theater and public communications in college. Those classes, or at least those category of classes, are REQUIRED to graduate HS. If I have my college-ready diploma from HS, why in the hell do I need to retake it in college? All those classes did was give me busy work and make me worried about my grades more than I needed to. AND I had learned more when I was in HS because I was being taught by an actual teacher, not being taught by a grad student while only getting to see my professor once a week for a 100+ person lecture!

Even if you revamp the schools, someone has to teach employers that more letters after a name doesn't make someone more qualified. There are way too many folks in my field with Master's degrees making less than $40,000 a year, but without the Master's, no one will hire them. It causes burnout because you feel undervalued and unappreciated with a salary that will likely never break $50,000 a year - and it's a field that every medical journal is touting as needing expanded!

The system is jacked up. I'm not saying every job needs a degree, but if you're going to require it, make sure you can PAY people for it. Don't ask folks to go $25,000+ into debt only to pay them $40,000/year. Either increase the pay or drop the requirements. Until places of employment realign their jobs with the ACTUAL training needed, colleges will continue to be the dumping ground and we'll continue to have bullsh*t degrees because that's what people will hire regularly.

Livingoutloud's picture

Totally agree. We need to model it on what they use in most countries Europe. 

lieutenant_dad's picture

I remember learning about Germany's school structure in my German class in HS and thinking, "god, that makes SO much more sense!"

tog redux's picture

Yes, we do a poor job of helping kids figure out what they want after high school. If kids are interested in trades, they should graduate from high school ready to go to work in them.  But here at least, the only kids who can do that are special ed kids, I guess because they have already determined they are most likely not going to college.

tog redux's picture

If you live in affluent area, that may be true. But I'm not sure people who didn't go to college themselves necessarily want their kids to go to college. Plus if the parents want their kids to go to college when the kids are not interested themselves, then the parents are part of the problem.

HolyBucketsIt'sCrazy's picture

I'm a college graduate and have a job making great money.  My DS19 wanted to be an electrician since his freshman year in high school. He was a high honor roll student all through high school, so definitely not special ed. But knew from the get go that he wanted to do ("because there is no way that I want to sit at a desk all day"). And I supported him in his decision. 

We live in a very affluent area and HS guidance counselors all PUSH college with nothing else even offered to the kids. I actually got called into the guidance counselors office for a conference when he was a junior. They asked me "do you know that DS19 doesn't want to go to college?" The sheer horror in her voice and look on her face were appalling. I asked her if she actually talked to DS19 about what his plan was. She said "well yes, but I wanted to make sure that you're ok with it. "  Ummmm.... yeah ... so he wants to go into a trade that is a 5 year program, that pays him (and pays really well) while he's training, classes are paid for, books are paid for, they pay a 100% off his health insurance, pay into 3 pensions, he gets 3 weeks paid vacation, and finishes with a guaranteed job (as long as he passes his state licensing exam), making $125K at age 23 with ZERO debt.  Well duh! Of course I'm ok with that. But he had to do all the legwork (finding the company, applications, taking aptitude tests, interviews, etc by himself because they were completely clueless as to what to do "because we've never encouraged anyone to go into the trades." WTH? So DS19 is actually going to his old high school's career day to talk about the trades and is offering to assist anyone who wants to apply but doesn't know how. I'm very proud of him, but that should be the guidance counselors job IMO.

lieutenant_dad's picture

To be fair to guidance counselors, their hands can be just as tied with what they encourage as teachers are with what they teach. I don't disagree that they should know and encourage other career paths, but I don't think they get the encouragement from administration to do it.

I will say, though, that nothing irritates me more than a HS who won't talk about trades in a meaningful way, but will allow military recruiters unfettered access to students during lunch. I'm not knocking the military as it is a great path for many. But they are SHARKS and won't let up on ANYONE who even asks a question. That's not fair to students, either.

Aniki's picture

DS19 is actually going to his old high school's career day to talk about the trades and is offering to assist anyone who wants to apply but doesn't know how

How wonderful - I love that!!! <3