University degrees are not the only option for building wealth and a business or career path. In the spirit of questioning everything, let’s look at some alternatives to a traditional university degree.
Vocational and Technical Education(aka “vo-tech”): Many of today’s best paying jobs are in technical or medical fields. One of the issues new college grads face when going into the work world is a lack of real world work experience. For many young people and those pursuing new careers, 1-2 years of vocational education is a wise choice compared to college, especially when they aren’t sure what they want to do. From HVAC repair to welding, surgical technology to practical nursing, you can get an affordable certificate or associates degree that pays a higher-than-average starting wage.
WARNING: Your best choice are vo-tech schools affiliated with your state education department. Credits might not transfer to universities and many schools are not accredited. Do your homework!
Online Education: For many individuals, balancing work and education is a challenge and online education is becoming an increasingly respected choice that offers you scheduling flexibility and allows a young person to build their resume while pursuing a degree. Look for online programs that are associated with a state university versus some of the very expensive online-only schools out there.
State vs. Private Schools: Sure. The quality of the education might differ somewhat and there might be a certain carte blanche with some private universities, but for many people attending a local private college like University of Dayton or University of Evansville (sorry alumni) or similar, once you move out of the area, that carte blanche is gone but the massive student loan debt (which can be 4 times as much as a state school in the same area) remains. Consider a state school.
Apprenticeship/Mentoring: If you or your child has an idea of what they’d like to do, it might be wise to get them a strong mentor in their chosen career field or to sign them up for an apprenticeship first before investing in their education. I’ve written about apprenticeships here.
Entrepreneurship: Would it be wiser to spend $40k on a college education for your child or $40k on buying them a small business or a rental property or two? Honestly it depends on your offspring and their interests/passions/aptitudes but this is an example of “thinking outside the box” that we rarely investigate.
Military Service: Your child shouldn’t sign up for the pay, BUT the college benefits, the work experience and some vo-tech style training all can make military service a surprisingly sound choice.
Workshops/Training Programs: While your adult child works you can affordably help them more clearly discern a path with various workshops and training programs in things like app development. (I am not associated with, nor can I vouch for, the effectiveness or legitimacy of any/all of these programs).
by Steven Schlagel