That this question even has to come up shows how things have changed over the last 30 to 40 years. Back in the 70’s, there were multiple choices for going to college that wouldn’t have cost all that much. California didn’t even charge people who qualified to go to state college. In New York, tuition for an entire year of college came in under $1,500, and that included the room and meals; books didn’t count.

Red Cross Nurse
East Lothian Museums
via Compfight

Why was it so inexpensive? Because there were pretty good options for people who decided they didn’t want to go to college. Factory and machinery work was everywhere, and it paid well. There were many employees who made way more money than the national average because unions took care of those employees. You’d have family members working side by side for generations; you didn’t even have to have a high school diploma.

But the world has changed to a degree. Many of those jobs have gone to other countries where some of the workers make less than what minimum wage is here. It’s harder to get a job that pays all that much without a high school diploma, and even with that one gets relegated so certain jobs where they’ll never have the opportunity to move up the ladder because they don’t have an advanced degree.

This makes the option of going to college almost seem mandatory doesn’t it? Yet, these days the only “inexpensive” options are going to community college, and that will only take you so far before you have to go to a regular 4-year accredited college to get that bachelor’s degree. And state colleges aren’t offering those well priced deals anymore. The cost of one year of college now is what it was for private colleges back in the 70’s; that’s not cheap.

So, this isn’t an easy answer across the board. But there are pros and cons that can help you decide which way you might want to go. Let’s look at some of these.

1. There are technical certifications you can get that can help you make great money without the expense of a 4-year college. There are never enough skilled electricians, plumbers, welders, and other jobs along that line. Many of these people go into business for themselves and can make a pretty good living in certain areas. If you make yourself available 24/7, you get to charge more for emergency services.

2. Nursing school. These days more men have figured out that there’s nothing wrong with being a nurse. There’s always a shortage of nurses around the country, and if you have the fortitude to make it all the way to registered nurse status you could be set for life. It’s not easy work, and there are many times when you might have to work 16-hour shifts, but this is a profession where there will always be a need somewhere.

3. Leadership positions. For almost every job you can think of, you’re probably going to need at least an associates degree, but most probably a Master’s degree. It doesn’t even have to be in the field of work expertise many times. Many companies use these as criteria to weed almost everyone else out to make their job of hiring easier. It makes little sense because I’d rather hire someone with 25 years of positive experience than someone out of college 3 years with a degree in some strange field but that’s not the norm.

4. Medical and legal. Other than being a nurse or a technician, for most other positions in medicine you’ll need an advanced degree. The same goes for the legal profession. Forget just being a lawyer; law cherks need to have some kind of legal educational background as well. Both of these professions cost a lot while in college, but get the right vocation afterwards and money becomes no object.

5. Elementary and secondary education. Talk about being unfairly treated for the most part. Many states require teachers to go back for a Master’s degree within so many years after becoming a teacher or lose their certification. Thus, they have to pay extra money without extra pay; they have to love doing this job.

6. The military. Strangely enough, it’s harder to get into the military these days. They actually turn volunteers away now if they can’t show that they can be educated, which means getting a high school diploma might be mandatory. However, having a college degree makes you eligible to become an officer; without that you’ll always be a non-commissioned officer. The thing is the military doesn’t pay all that well but on a military base your money goes a very long way, you’ll travel often (even if you may not like where you go all the time), and your set for life as far as medical coverage goes. And they not only pay you to train you, but they’ll even help pay for your college later on down the line; that might make going to college worth it.

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