Is College the Best Option?

Of course, there are the horror stories of students with six-figure debts accumulated in pursuit of advanced degrees, but generally the case for attending college is strong. In addition to higher lifetime earnings, college graduates typically will have better job opportunities; land jobs that provide health insurance and retirement benefits; learn important interpersonal skills; and establish contacts that may help them in their careers. But, what of the alternatives?

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    Is College the Best Option?

    Is College the Best Option?

    The percentage of high school graduates enrolling in college was over 66% in 2020.1 For those who borrow to attend a university, they will graduate with, on average, almost $26,000 in debt.2 That may sound like a lot, but it needs to be compared to the additional income graduates will earn, which is approximately $1 million over their lifetime.3

    Of course, there are the horror stories of students with six-figure debts accumulated in pursuit of advanced degrees, but generally the case for higher education is strong. In addition to higher lifetime earnings, graduates typically will have better job opportunities and jobs that provide health insurance and retirement benefits. Moreover, attendees learn some important interpersonal skills, establish contacts that may help them in their careers, and, let’s not forget, become smarter citizens. But, what of the alternatives?

    The Case for Considering Alternatives to College

    There are several good reasons, however, to consider alternatives to college.

    • Many young adults are simply not interested in four more years of school, and it may be better for them to choose a trade that holds their interest.
    • It is not always the ticket to a rewarding career. Many graduates find themselves in jobs that don’t require a college education to perform, even if an employer requires a degree for such roles.
    • There are many well-paying job opportunities for non-degree workers. Two of the top five fastest growing occupations—wind turbine service technicians and solar photovoltaic installers—do not require a college degree and pay $56,230 and $46,470 per year, respectively.4 Not to mention skilled trades—like welders, electricians, carpenters and plumbers—which, by experience, we know are hard to find and expensive to hire!
    • Some great careers do not require a college education, though many young adults pursue such careers via a four-year school. For example, computer coding can be learned through highly-focused training programs, which can be completed in a year or less and lead to well-paying jobs. Other well-paying jobs—like radiation therapists, nuclear medicine technologists, web developers, avionics technicians and computer network specialists—require only a two-year degree.

    College may be the default choice for most high school graduates, but the motivation for going ought to be grounded in the pursuit of intellectual growth or a profession that requires it. Otherwise, they may find all they’ve accomplished by going to college is creating a pile of personal debt.

    Sources:

    1. https://usafacts.org/data/topics/people-society/education/higher-education/college-enrollment-rate/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=ND-StatsData&gclid=Cj0KCQiA8ICOBhDmARIsAEGI6o0abZdHuJBujYFFifnCU2JgvvFwt3ZQFwKvh4bjsXn-VfDtpMzgb6saAl6IEALw_wcB
    2. https://www.aplu.org/projects-and-initiatives/college-costs-tuition-and-financial-aid/publicuvalues/student-debt.html
    3. https://www.aplu.org/projects-and-initiatives/college-costs-tuition-and-financial-aid/publicuvalues/student-debt.html
    4. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm

    Please reference disclosures: https://blog.americanportfolios.com/disclosures/

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