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Success By Degrees
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Get a four-year degree. It is the path to a successful career.

That was true once. Today many young adults graduate from four-year colleges with a five or six-figure student loan debts. It cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. Worse, they cannot find jobs paying enough to repay that debt. The debt accumulates interest, blighting their future.

Even if successful later, the fruits of their labor go to pay off school debt. Doomed to spend most of their lives working for others, without benefiting from their own hard work, many give up. They accept failure. Failure beats working long hours without reward. Is that the future you want for your children?

Education has benefits beyond being the path to a successful career. If the object of education is a successful career however, the objective is a successful career, not a four year degree. Education becomes a capital investment. With capital investments, never borrow more than you can pay back with a reasonable return from the investment. What is a reasonable limit for a degree? Up to one year’s salary at entry level. Why? Because there are other expenses besides paying off the investment, but devoting one-tenth to retiring debt is doable. A newly-minted engineer can reasonably expect to earn $65,000 right out of college. A social worker? Perhaps $30,000. Expenses at public universities runs $30,000 to $40,000 a year, including living expenses. Do you see the problem?

The Alternative

There is an alternative: an associate degree in a high-paying technical field. Heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration techs can expect $40,000-$50,000 annually. Dental technicians earn up to $70,000. Folks with the right associate degree get jobs in the chemical plants near where I live paying up to $80,000 annually. That is good money. These jobs cannot be easily outsourced, either.

You qualify with an associate degree from a community college. It takes only two years, tuition is lower and often your child can live at home.

They can get that four-year degree after entering the workforce. Do it part-time, evenings and weekends (I earned an MBA that way), or after saving enough to cover expenses. Pay as you go. You can chip in, too. There is time to do that nowadays. People live longer. Skilled trades are not sweatshop jobs, either. They provide leisure for education. Attending college as an adult – after experiencing the real world, with real-life experiences – allows most to get more from their education.

What about the low prestige of “blue-collar jobs?” At worst, a technician is a franklin (look it up). An unemployed BA with student loan debt is a serf, bound to the debt. Folks can move into professions later, unburdened by debt. A co-worker began as an auto-mechanic, later got a computer science degree, and is now a technical writer. He has no debt, either. His mechanic’s income paid for his house and education.

What do your really want for your children? A secure future or bragging rights about Your Child the College Graduate? It's worth some consideration.

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By Mark N. Lardas. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.


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