Student loans; two of the worst words ever created in the English language. If I were to guess, assuming a poll was ever done for such a thing, they’d be near the top just underneath pyramid schemes and people who choose the seat right next to you in an empty movie theatre. They’re bad. Astronomically bad. And for the most part, our society has deemed them as a necessary evil.
But why? Why are student loans held as such a right of passage when seemingly every one of my graduate life connections is required to pay at least five hundred dollars per month toward them (and that’s being conservative!)? Wouldn’t it be a no-brainer to want to do everything you possibly could to avoid these poisoned apples? Unfortunately, that’s simply not the case. Due to the culture in the United States, not only are hordes of graduating high school students eagerly snapping their jaws to get a bite out of these loans but so are the parents that watch over them.
And while higher education does admittedly come at a price (and I’m not going to argue that it shouldn’t), I think that we as a society need to take a second look at these student loans before we continue our trend of buying them up like those demonic Furbies when they were first released. Instead, we need to discuss alternatives to the $1.48 trillion total U.S. student loan debt (per federalreserve.gov).
Now, if you’ll allow me to propose a few:
Alternative #1: Community College – First Two Years
Often given a bad reputation by those who would question the educational value as compared to the university system, community colleges are one of the best options for those who are attempting to avoid taking on student loans. With an average cost of $4,871/year (per communitycollegereview 2017-2018) they offer huge savings for students and parents who want to look at the potential to cash flow their way through school. And that’s assuming you have to pay the average.
When I went to community college for my first two years of higher education (about twelve years ago), it was far less and there were tons of opportunities looking back on it now where I could have cut the cost even lower. Tricks like not buying your textbooks and instead simply going to the college library to use their free copies, writing letters to congressmen who have connections with locals who are looking to donate funds to the future of the youth today, and working on-site jobs that offer discounts on tuition are just a few that come immediately to mind.
And while this isn’t going to provide a four-year degree like universities offer or count as credit toward your entry into the United States Galactic Alien Defense Force (at this current time), it can be used to cut the future costs of finishing at a higher institution later. So try not to discount the worthwhile semesters that can be spent on one of these campuses.
As a side note, if you’re worried that you might be judged in the future by your employer when they ask where you went to school, I have some good news for you. Out of the three jobs that I’ve held since I graduated and the hundreds of applications that I filed to apply for jobs immediately following graduation, not once have I been asked where I started my college education. They only cared about where I finished it and what my other qualifications were (public speaking experience, certifications, prior employment, whether I had any mind control techniques to achieve higher sales goals).
Alternative #2: Employer Backed
You don’t need to join the Federation and fight the bug aliens of Klendathu to have your education paid for by someone else. A large number of employers that have full-time paraprofessional employees (jobs you can get without a degree) offer financial assistance for their employees to seek higher education.
This is made possible for multiple reasons. For one, it helps company turn over. If your company is paying for your education or even contributing to a good portion of your bill, you’re less likely to leave and seek other opportunities (so much for joining your cousin, Rico’s dessert sushi startup). This helps reduce the cost of hiring and training a replacement if you chose to teleport your way out. Second, these same employers can require employees to apply for federal student aid before their benefits are paid (and this seems to be a requirement regardless). This leads to taxpayer help and that then translates to a large tax deduction for the business offering the assistance. And finally, one mustn’t forget that better-educated employees make better bets when it comes time to fill spots that offer a promotional move. Not only are they more knowledgeable in their field of study, but they also provide the employer with greater knowledge of that employee’s current ability to handle work. And that’s not something you can put a high enough price on when you think of how much money can be wasted on an untested new employee straight off the street.
Alternative #3: Entrepreneurship
Student loans aren’t the only option when it comes to being successful in your working life. While a college degree has been shown to increase your chances at landing higher paying jobs, there are other opportunities that don’t rely on having to produce that extremely expensive piece of paper with your university’s seal. And one of the best of those opportunities is entrepreneurship.
Loads of businesses that are started by the young and old alike are kickstarted by simply writing a good business model, having a decent understanding of your product, creating clones of you to get more work done, and applying equal amounts of gusto and hard work. In fact, out of all the connections that I currently have on Facebook, the friend of mine who happens to make the most money is an entrepreneur that has never graduated college. How’s that for a response to the argument that you need to go to college in order to make more money?
So I ask again; why are student loans seen as a right of passage when there are clear alternatives that can lead to less debt, more opportunities, and other directions that could ultimately lead you to what you were truly meant to accomplish? The answer is up to you. But I hope that this article has started a discussion.
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For a guide to starting your own business, check out my previous post: how to start your business.