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Paying For College: Is it Worth the Debt?

Updated on September 23, 2015
An infographic provided by Andrea Oguntula shows the crushing debt faced by the nation's students and by her own at Pepperdine University
An infographic provided by Andrea Oguntula shows the crushing debt faced by the nation's students and by her own at Pepperdine University | Source

What Does College Really Cost?

College costs a staggering amount, but not all tuition is created equal. There are many variables that affect how much a student pays for their education. Where they go, where they live, what they study, and how long they study it all have a profound effect on a student's cost. To exemplify how much a difference location is, a statistic released by calculated community college tuition in Texas to be $2,394, as compared to Minnesota's tuition of 5,356. That's almost a $3,000 difference just based on geographic location. In my home state of Michigan, a full-time student attending Eastern Michigan University will spend $20,616 per year. PER YEAR. Assuming tuition stays constant for the duration of a student's 4 year degree, the student will graduate with a staggering bill of $82,464 (on average; this does not include added fees faced by students with science majors). A full Pell Grant ($6,000 per year) from the federal government would only reduce that bill to $58,464. The numbers cannot lie. To fund an education has become a crushing weight on young minds.


Post-Degree Prospects

So, education is expensive. But, over time, it pays for itself, right? Absolutely, after you go through Hell first of course. Don't celebrate too much after you receive your degree, because the same people that loaned you the money to pay for it are now at your throat to get it back. The standard agreement for your loans is that they be paid back in 10 years (according to, with interest. 10 years seems like a long time to get settled in, but the loan company sends you a monthly bill that they expect to be paid, regardless of your job status. According to the Huffington Post, 7.9% of recent college grads are unemployed and the Washington Post claims that only 28% of graduates are in a field related to their degree. So now that you own tens of thousands of dollars, the odds are that you'll either be unemployed or in an unrelated field.

Skilled labor can provide an economical solution to college costs.
Skilled labor can provide an economical solution to college costs. | Source

Skilled Labor: The Alternative Solution

Too often while I was in high school I heard over and over my peers say they needed college. There is an illusion, a thick fog, over the eyes of students everywhere who have been conned into believing without college they will certainly fail. However, what is so often forgot is how our grandparents made their livings in a time when college was for doctors and lawyers. Skilled labor is an economical solution for students who simply cannot afford the expensive college price tag. For most skilled trades, no formal college training is needed, and if it is, it is usually paid for by the employer under the pretense you will work for them after graduation. Apprenticeships are an excellent foot in the door. And apprentice requires no experience in the field, and receives paid, on-the-job training. Electricians and plumbers are excellent examples of skilled laborers. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, electricians received a median wage of $23.96 per hour; plumbers received a similar wage of $23.62 per hour. That is much friendlier than a minimum wage job.

Electrician vs High School Teacher

High School Diploma
Bachelor's Degree
Job Outlook
20% (higher than average)
6% (slower than average)
A comparison of an electrician's career to a teacher's career. Statistics taken from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Breaking Free: Carving Your Career

For some, college is the clear choice. They need to receive a specific degree for a specific line of work. But for others, they aren't sure college is a good fit, and it certainly doesn't feel good knowing they will likely graduate with staggering debt. By electing to choose a skilled labor, graduating high school students don't have to be faced with a choice between debt and a mediocre career. Students could choose a hands-on education that would not only pay them, but teach them valuable home skills and set them up for a promising and rewarding career. College does not guarantee success. For those who question if college is worth the investment, it may well be worth your time to research a few skilled labor professions and consider an alternative road. In the long run, a college graduate may earn a couple thousand more than a skilled laborer, but most of those earnings will be swept away in student loan repayments. College isn't for everyone, especially with the gargantuan price tag it now carries. Break free from the idea you need college to be successful, and rather, get into the idea that a valuable skill set is what really guarantees your success and future.

After reading this article, how likely are you to pursue a college education?

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    • profile image

      Big E 

      3 years ago

      Black skin can help you get into college cheaper and easier. Thank god for Robert Downey Jr.


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