College: not always the best option

Oliver Hopcroft, Co-Editor-in-Chief

If one asked a financial advisor whether taking on over a hundred thousand dollars in debt is a smart idea, the answer would be a resounding “no.” Still, every year, students from every high school in the nation will spend thousands of dollars on tuition for college education, be it at a community college or private university. The cost sounds much more palatable when billed as an “investment in one’s future” or a “path to success”- but is it really? Many options aside from college, such as trade schools and apprenticeships, can provide one with more applicable work experience and quicker job opportunities, all at a fraction of a cost.

College prices in America are on the rise, and have been for many years. According to The College Board, the average yearly tuition for a four year public school has risen by 40 percent in the last 10 years. Degrees, meanwhile, are becoming more and more commonplace—where a degree used to be almost a guarantee of a job, now it is just one of many requirements.

When a college graduate does find a job, his or her income is limited by a cloud of debt. Student loans are how most students will pay for college. According to the the Institute for College Access and Success, seven in ten students graduate with student loan debt. This debt can hang over one’s finances for decades. Even worse, sometimes all this debt is for nothing. The Institute of Education Statistics estimates that 40% of students enrolled at four-year colleges will either drop out or not complete their degree on time. These students will be faced with paying for more years of school or leaving without a degree, making all of their previous investments a waste.

Trade schools, also called vocational schools, offer an education specific to one area of work. They are much cheaper, take less time to complete and offer more hands-on experience than conventional four year colleges. The average vocational school degree costs just $33,000, as opposed to $127,000 for a bachelor’s degree. Students who graduate from these schools fill essential roles in our society, from air-traffic controllers to electricians, often with starting salaries higher than those of four-year college graduates.

Many students never even consider options like these due to pressure and stigma from their peers and family, depriving them of what may be their best path after high school. People should move away from the current perspective that college is the only worthwhile option and recognize other less expensive yet profitable and fulfilling career paths.