It’s the time of year when students are beginning to frantically check their mailboxes for college acceptance letters. A common American myth is that a university education is imperative to success in life. The truth is, there are many successful people with bachelor’s degrees, but there are many successful people without them, too.
Part of the problem with is perception, says community college expert Shane Larson. He says that “some young students feel that the only degree is a four-year degree; it’s what they hear most about . . . A four-year degree is not the only path, and it can seem to some to be simply unattainable because of time and cost factors.”
Particularly in manufacturing, a massive number of forecasted jobs require just two years of education (an associate’s degree), a certificate, or even just previous work experience. The lower level of education requirements is partly because of the nature of the work and partly because those jobs need to be filled as soon as possible. If you’re in an industry like the humanities or academia where it’s nearly impossible to get a well-paying job, manufacturing is an entirely different world.
The moral of the story? As U.S. News noted a few years ago, there’s no reason for Americans not to send their kids to college, but it shouldn’t be an automatic or a reflexive action: “It’s not like deciding to have breakfast or go to bed. It’s more like, say, to get married. It’s a big decision. There are lots of consequences, lots of costs, lots of ups and downs.”
If you’ve ever felt pressured into the university education mold, stop right there. Here are a few reasons that you might be better suited for a degree at one of Nebraska’s amazing community colleges, or even no degree at all.
- You’ll have debt. According to the WSJ, the average graduate has $26,000-plus in debt when they graduate, which is at least as risky as taking the chance to intern, apprentice, and get experience while saving money. Especially if the results aren’t worth it (a recent study notes that as many as 45% of students show no improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning, or written communication during their first two years in college), you’ll be fighting an uphill battle upon graduation. If you haven’t received scholarship money, a lower-cost community college can work for all, or part, of your education.
- You may be better served by an apprenticeship. For some students, their learning style responds better to hands-on learning rather than being in a classroom. A combination of apprenticeship, a certificate program, or other programs can help fit certain needs and learning styles better than the cut and dried classroom environment.
- There’s not always a return on investment. If the end goal for you is a well-paying job, it may be useful to know the S. Labor Department projects that 63% of all new jobs that will be created between now and 2020 won’t require a college degree. Some surprisingly high-paying jobs only require a high school diploma or equivalent.
Everyone’s path is different, so if you feel passionate about a university education, this article is in no way meant to dissuade you. However, it is important to think critically about your choices and know that industries like the manufacturing industry exist for all types of applicants.