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Knowledge Without College?

For at least the past couple years I’ve had this topic on my list of things to write about, and a recent article pushed me over the edge. So far over the edge, in fact, that this is the first of three installments on the topic.

The article states that nearly 70 percent of businesses in the construction fields are having trouble hiring hourly tradespeople. How can that be so when we’re constantly hearing about how hard it is to find work? The article and I agree that at least one of the reasons is that too many young people are being advised to pursue a college degree.

Don’t misunderstand; for many coming out of high school, a four-year degree in a field they love and have an aptitude for is absolutely the right thing to do. But consider this: 70 percent of those kids will study at a four-year school. Of those, one in three will transfer and fewer than two-thirds will graduate.  Does that tell you that some of them are getting bad advice?

It’s not a surprise that the cost of that advice can be staggering. 71 percent graduate with debt averaging more than $25,000. For many, the debt can approach or exceed six figures. And maybe that would be fine if there was a likelihood of earning it back quickly, but students in fields that used to be a virtual guarantee of lucrative employment – law, for one – now find themselves scrabbling for a small number of positions in a shrinking industry.

For my part, I see plenty of resumes with college degrees on them, and I’m routinely flabbergasted at how unqualified and unprepared for the real world many of these candidates are.

So what’s the solution? There are usually many paths to a destination but which one is best for you or your children? Unless money is no object, getting through college without breaking the bank should be a priority.

If you don’t know where you are heading or what you want to do with your degree, spending $25,000 to $50,000 a year in order to find yourself doesn’t make financial sense. I suspect this is one of the biggest reasons why many students switch universities or drop out after their first year.

Two year colleges and online classes are a viable path to starting a higher education. If you have a solid work ethic and some work experience under your belt, skipping college altogether and focusing on a trade can be far more financially rewarding then a college education. We’ll look at a few options in our next two posts.

Mike Popowski is President of PBI Restorations. Reach him at