Should I get a student loan?
Student loans have been the hot topic of the last few years, how many of the millennial crowd is straddled with student loans for many years to come and most with very little job prospects in their chosen field. Paying down tens of thousands of dollars in debt with no real income if daunting and I can’t imagine starting out that far in the hole.
So one has to ask, is this the only way?
Now I write this from an outside prospective since I have never had student loans nor did I attend a traditional college, rather I got my start in a vocational program, electrical tech to be exact. You know like the ones everyone laughs at because you only go to trade school because your too dumb to go to real college, Ya one of those. The TV personality Mike Rowe is a big advocate of people learning a trade and getting dirty and I can’t agree more.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many professions that require a degree and we need those professionals in the work force, but I will explain my theory on how to determine if a college degree is right for you.
No one in my family has ever gone to college so it was never discussed growing up, plus I went to a very poor high school with only a graduating class of 35 students, so you can imagine there wasn’t a whole lot of “college promotion” going on there as well.
Getting back to my opinion of college and student loans, I have been an entrepreneur and small business owner for the past 15 years. I have started and grown several different business and have even volunteered my time with the Small Business Association’s Score program coaching small business owners. I guess I have come to understand what it takes to research and start a small business and here lies my proposal to you. Pretend your career is a small business, because when you really get down to it, it is.
Follow me on this; this is not just for students but their parents as well. Not many young people truly know what they want to do with the rest of their lives and that is perfectly fine, however going to college to get a liberal arts degree just to make society happy is not a smart move. If the prospective career was put together into a business plan similar to what a start-up company needs to provide a lender for financing I think it would be a bit more insightful for both the student and the lender.
In a business plan the lender wants to see what your business will look like in the future, you will need to provide market data showing there is a demand for your “product”, that there is a profit margin, as well as what the current competition looks like. Generally you will also need to come up with collateral and a sizable down payment, all of which to assure the lender that you are committed to this long-term. Now businesses fail all the time but a lot of planning goes into determining if a business is viable, now and into the future.
Again this article is only directed to the population that has no clue what they want to do or the field they are pursing pays $10 an hour and you’ll be working the next 20 years to break even. If you know you want to be a doctor, please get that degree we need more doctors!
A great way to test the waters of a potential career is to work in the field for a year or so before committing to years of college. Go work as an intern or in the mail room for a company that you may want to work for someday, you may find you hate the environment or the pay and hours aren’t what you hoped for and you can move on to something else without risking years in school and huge amounts of debt.
Getting back to trades, like Mike Rowe preaches, there are millions of great paying jobs, and when I say great sometimes twice as much or more than a “degree position” going unfilled because our society deems them undesirable. In Europe having a blue collar trade is looked highly upon.
Did I mention these jobs pay well if you dedicate yourself to them and the best part is many don’t require a degree and offer on the job training or apprenticeships? Ya, get paid to learn what a concept.
A couple of prime example of this is my best friend in high school was great at school and thought he liked writing so his family sent him to New York City to go to school and he almost finished his degree before he dropped out, today he is a union brick layer that has worked his way up through the apprenticeship and makes over $80k a year. Another friend went to ITT tech and also dropped out after spending $20k, today he’s a lineman for a power company making $120k. So I guess moral of the story is just because your expected to go to college be sure you are making the right decision before blindly following the masses off the cliff, it’s not for everyone and that’s okay, but if you are set on going try to minimize the debt you accrue and do the “business plan” test first to make sure you are heading in the right direction. Best of luck to all of you!