Say YES to Education but say NO to large debt (part1)

Recently, I have seen articles discussing the idea of “saying no to college”.

Education is extremely important! Notice, I didn’t say college was extremely important I said education. UnSchool is not exactly off base. They are saying to get educated, but they are saying to do it without college. However, college degrees are the standard today for proof of education, and that should not be overlooked.

Some of the arguments for UnCollege and not valid. For example, here is one of the quotes:

“You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for a buck fifty in late charges at the public library.”
– Will Hunting

OK. So I am total agreement with this statement assuming you were foolish enough to spend $150K on a college degree. Do NOT spend that much on a degree unless you are going to be something like a specialized surgeon or unless it doesn’t change the number of zeros in your (or your daddy’s) bank account.

I am not, however, in perfect agreement with UnCollege. My recommendation is to acquire education and do it in a way that provides “Proof of Education.”

Person Experience: I have a bachelor’s degree and I am almost done with my Masters of Computer Science. How much debt have I incurred from my bachelors and my Masters? $0. Now that doesn’t mean I never had a loan for education. I took out a $4k loan for a certification course. My certification was my first Proof of Education.

Proof of Education

Proof of Education is proof that you have learning or experience that can help you be successful in a role. Proof of Education is extremely important.

The most common and well-known and most accepted form of proof of education is a High School Diploma followed closely by a Bachelors degree. Another well-known proof of education but not necessarily considered such is your driver’s license.

Here is a list of the common forms of Proof of Education. These end with a nice certificate from an accredited institution.

  1. High School Diploma or GED
  2. Bachelors Degree
  3. Masters Degree
  4. Doctorate or Ph.d.

These are not the only ways to obtain Proof of Education. There are other ways however, the “proof” part is often harder to come by as it is not always a nice signed piece of paper from an accredited instituation.

  1. Job Experience
  2. Apprenticeship
  3. Certifications in your field
  4. Non-profit work and projects
  5. Life experiences

How do you prove Job Experience? Job experience is not too hard to prove, especially if the company is still around and their HR can confirm your employment and title. If the company you worked for disappears, how can you prove you worked there? Well, pay statements, references (keep in contact with previous managers and co-workers which is very easy these days).

Why is a degree the most important Proof of Education?

Often in many companies and government organizations a degree is required. If the most qualified individual doesn’t not have a degree, they are likely not to even get an interview because they don’t pass the filter.

Personal Experience: Even there is a possibility for an exception to be made, it often isn’t. I interviewed for a government job that required a Degree in Computer Science. I was qualified. My undergraduate degree was in English because I could already write code. This company wanted a WPF developer (which is my forte) and were willing to pay 110K a year, but my undergraduate degree was in English. They couldn’t make the exception despite my experience and I lost out on a great high paying job.

Personal Experience: My father’s degree is in Psychology. He worked a great job in the oil field for twenty years. Then he passed some Appraisal certifications and became an appraiser of houses. It seemed he may never use his degree. During the housing crash, around 2009, he had the opportunity to teach seminary to supplement his income. Teaching required a degree. He would have lost that opportunity without a degree.

Why may a degree not be for you?

Here are some examples of why a degree may not be for you:

  1. You may never use it. I know many people who end up working in the oil field or as a mechanic or various other positions that don’t require a degree an they never use it.
  2. It may not be worth the money. A degree in English from Yale when you plan to be a technical writer is probably not going to provide any bang for your buck. A degree from your local community college in english or even just some technical writing courses and experience would probably result in similar salaries, so save yourself some money.
  3. You want to be an entrepeneur. You just have the bug and want to work for yourself. Take some business courses somewhere, and get your business started, and stay away from college. Just be aware that most business owners fail many times and put in 80 hours a week while failing. However, once you succeed, you could end up making six figures and possibly more. It is higher risk but higher reward.
  4. You just can’t sit still and concentrate in a classroom environment and fail anytime you try. If this is you, you know who you are. Find another way to get educated and make sure to grab some Proof of Education along the way.
  5. You already have a marketable skill.

Personal Experience: I have a brother-in-law who doesn’t have a degree. His father was a surveyor and he started working with him at a young age and had years of experience already and a marketable skill already. He got a few certifications and has a great job. He may never need a degree. However, he is only in his thirties so who knows if he will wish for a degree sometime in his career.

Continued in How to get a degree and stay out of debt? (Part 2)

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