Country Living Series

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Getting a REAL education

Recently my older brother and I have been exchanging emails on the cost and/or benefit of a college education. My brother has a bachelor's and a master's degree in engineering, and worked as an engineer for decades -- the "golden era" of engineering, he's now calling it.

"Worked" -- as in, past tense -- is the key word here. It seems older and more experienced engineers are no longer wanted in the marketplace. After dodging the layoffs for years, my brother finally got the pink slip about a year ago, along with nearly the entire rest of the senior engineering staff at his company. The trend in Silicon Valley, he reports, is to fire older staff and hire cheap imported engineers from other countries. Now he is forcibly retired. I say "forcibly" because he's spent the last 12 months interviewing for different jobs, and no one is biting despite his vast qualifications.

While my brother is somewhat bitter over this practice of laying off senior engineers, he has one extraordinary piece of good fortune in his favor: he saw the handwriting on the wall twenty years ago. He knew he could be laid off at any time. Therefore he spent his productive years purchasing properties, promptly paying off the mortgages, and staying out of every other kind of debt. Now he has income from renting out the three houses he purchased and paid off. This is his retirement strategy.

My brother is fortunate that he got his college degrees at a time when college was expensive, but not nearly as inflated as now. According to this article, the cost of higher education has surged more than five hundred percent since 1985. I'm beginning to think it's an enormous blessing-in-disguise that our girls have been priced out of the college market.

My brother just sent me a link to this article, which outlines how a student who majors in film could easily emerge with up to $182,000 in student loan debt. "This is too much borrowing!" chides the author. "You can’t repay that kind of debt on a film major’s starting salary, and you can’t get rid of student loans in bankruptcy."

All this is a lead-up to an outstanding article I recently read on SurvivalBlog entitled Getting A Real Education– Why Becoming Self-Sufficient Is Better Than Going To College. As far as I'm concerned, every word of this article is pure gold for young people just starting their adult life.

The premise of the article is that instead of spending four years of time and oodles of money acquiring a dubious college degree in a field that may not be hiring, young people should spend the next four years acquiring a work ethic and job skills, squirreling away money, and making intelligent long-term purchases.

Some quoted highlights:

[I]t is better to learn to become self-sufficient rather than spend your precious time and money going to college, at least for now. In fact, if you follow this alternate path of education, in order to be best prepared for the new reality, in four years time you will be well on the way to financial independence; you’ll also be healthier, have a nest-egg to invest, and have well-developed multiple skills. You will be at least a decade ahead of your high school pals who went directly to college.

Here’s what you should be doing during the next four years, to be better prepared to meet the emerging “New Realty”:

• Learn to find or create a job to earn money,
• Negotiate a place to live until you can move into your own home,
• Plan how to invest the money you are saving,
• Learn to grow food,
• Learn to buy real estate, and
• Develop multiple means of income. (I will explain this later on.)

The goal of accomplishing the list above is to:

• Work and save as much as you can,
• Find a property you can purchase with some of your savings to own it free and clear,
• Learn to garden or provide other legitimate means to drastically reduce your grocery costs,
• Develop your property to its highest and best purpose, which will enable you to be financially free,

Having accomplished all this, you will have learned multiple skills and the means to provide yourself and others with food and shelter. This will give you more choices, and allow you to become financially free, while you are still able to enjoy it.

The best way to accomplish all of this is to think of it as your “real education” and to commit to working your plan for four years as if you were attending college, only this is your practical education. Without a real commitment to accomplishing each step of the plan, you won’t reap the benefits it will deliver. So resolve right now to commit to the process.

At the end of your real education you will:

• Be living in a home that you own free and clear, eliminating major housing costs,

• Be able to save more money by growing your own food,
• Be healthier, because you’ve been eating healthier food instead of the GMO’d food sold in the grocery stores,
• Be able to have a nest-egg to invest,
• Be in a position to help others, financially and materially,
• Possess the real skills needed to successfully meet the challenges of an uncertain future, and
• Ultimately have more choices and greater control over your life!

This is definitely an article I'm printing out in its entirety in hopes our girls will take it to heart. In this day and age, it makes far more sense than studying something stooopid in college such as Gender Studies or Peace and Social Justice.


  1. Wise advice.

    I agree.

    A. McSp

  2. One more benefit of a Real Education is that in a;; likelihood you will actually produce a real product. You will produce your own wealth and not expect the govmint to confiscate someone elses to support you. You will have real pride in yourself.

  3. Liberals are NOT going to be happy with you, Patrice! But, isn't that just too darn bad? I know far more people who are doing quite well in today's world who have no college degrees, than many others who have degrees and are doing horribly. The facts are there for all to see, yet some relatives of mine who have a degree look down on me because I do not have a degree. Just a few units short of my AA, I got tired of the whole college thing and got out of that rat race. I got a good job with excellent benefits and now I'm living a nice life of retirement. But, because I have no college degree, my opinion means very little to my "educated" siblings. After all, what do I know? I don't even have a degree! No doubt liberal college profs drilled that into their heads for 4 years, as well as liberal teachers in our public school system.

  4. Good post, Patric. I had read that article and also thought it was excellent. Heck, I think it it good advise for most.

  5. I think the days of brick and mortar college is coming to a close. IF you need a degree, checkout They have you CLEP out of as many credits as possible for a cheap fee. Then take the remainder online thru Thomas Edison College in NJ or Liberty University. A fraction of the time and a fraction of the money. DWLee3 in Bend, Oregon

    1. free college go to
      udacity or coursera
      on the computer.

      for the younger go to

      as long as you have the useful knowledge from anything you study you are ahead.

      St. Paul was a 'tentmaker priest'. Jewish boys received a trade and academics. you can still do that.

      the university here raised rates two consecutive years. one year it was because there were so many students, the next it was because there were not enough students. you can't have it both ways and yet they is a state u. and yet the fees are outrageous.
      if i had it to do over again i would go to trade school and then pay for whatever college courses i wanted instead of being chained to a course of study, but i didn't know any better.
      back then the trades open to females were secretary, beautician, or nurse. you couldn't take carpentry because i tried and was frowned upon.
      also, you can go to college anytime. i was there in the viet nam era and the guys who came in on the g. i. bi.l were so much more mature, serious about their studies and very goal oriented.
      it is good to be more mature instead of jumping in right out of high school.
      deb h.

  6. Some people encourage building a business or going in the military and then getting a useful degree when you are somewhat older - useful defined as medicine, science, or engineering.
    One thing not mentioned in most discussions of college costs is the spread between costs for similar programs - in statistics terms, the Standard Deviation. Some schools are very affordable and some schools are unaffordable except to the richest of the rich - just from what I have heard through the grapevine, there is a huge spread in cost for similar programs.
    I have an engineering degree from a private institution that accepts no federal money and within 4 years my annual salary was more than my entire college education cost; by my definition, that was a useful, worthwhile, degree.

  7. "The trend in Silicon Valley, he reports, is to fire older staff and hire cheap imported engineers from other countries. "

    We're doomed. I mean, we're doomed for a lot of reasons, but this is a really big one.

    I'm a computer programmer, been doing mostly business software for over 17 years.

    Been through this sort of thing from my sector.

    The foreign workers aren't worth much of anything, except a rare few. A few are more like a plague, infecting code bases and causing damage that has long term effects.

    Engineering is magnitudes more important to get right than software development, but the same type of people will be designing truly awful products. And they will be dangerous.

    The statists will find a way to protect their favored companies from law suits and consumer retaliation by the use of State controlled violence.

    It's been happening with big pharm and big agriculture, it's going to get worse.

    We're headed to a banana republic and a third world crap hole in short order, and this is one of the biggest signs it'll happen really, really soon.

  8. Patrice,
    I guess that God has blessed us. I believe in college education
    and it being paid for.Maybe. Our daughter just graduated Magna
    cum laude and it is paid for.But we were very lucky.The college that she graduatied from had an out reach program in the town that we live in.She was able to get her certicate by going to the local college and working also.Then she has just finished her
    associated degree. I am not sure if she will go on to get her
    bachalors. but if she does she can do it on line.
    So somethimes it still can be done.

  9. My son is a Lt Colonel in the Wi Air Guard and a VP at US Bank, how did he do it. He went into the Guard after graduation, 6 mo of basic and ojt. He went to college right after the ojt, the Guard paid the tuition, fees, books and he did one weekend a month. After he graduated from the state college he went to work on his masters which was paid again by the state. He had no student loans. He has never been to a war zone unless you consider, Hawaii, England or Mississippi dangerous. In 2 years he will retire from the Guard with 30 years. The ANG always is an option.

  10. My grand daughter will be going to Emerson College in Boston this fall.. cost of tuition per year with room and board is $50,000. She will be majoring in Communications, while she is a very bright and attractive young women, I doubt that finding a job after she graduates is going to be an easy task. It blows my mind that anyone in todays world would even contemplate spending this kind of money. I received a nursing degree, through Adult Ed. and Community College, my daughter did the same and both of us earned/ are earning very good salaries at a fraction of the cost of one year of my grand daughters tuition. I think that it is far better in this economy not to seek out a Trade.. less time and and you can out earn many college educated folks. Good article Patrice and all those graduating from High School should read this.

    Dee in the South West

  11. Read this book. Wish I read it before I went to college.

  12. Some fields are requiring a college degree while simultaneously decrying the graduates lack of "common sense" and "real word experience". I got news for them. You don't gain either one of those going to college! I barely lasted a whole semester before leaving for a vocational school. There were some wonderful classes that made my knowledge thirsty brain very happy but I couldn't believe I was required to take some of those classes for a business major. I loved my class on sustainable design especially but I wound up butting heads with the rest of the class. A practical minded conservative does not get along with young liberal greenies who've never lived in the "real world" very well. ;) We had some fun debates.

  13. If your child has a very strong intellect and desire to be a leader, consider going to any Service Academy (Navy/Annapolis, Army/West Point, Air Force/Colorado Springs, Coast Guard/New London, Merchant Marine/Great Neck).
    If a full-blown academy isn't desired, but your child has a strong academic background and is reasonably athletic, consider ROTC (any service).
    Both those options will pay for college, give outstanding training, leadership opportunities and a solid job after college. The GI Bill is available after leaving active duty service and will pay for graduate school.
    If your child isn't that strong academically, or not really ready for 4 more years of school, consider enlistment (any service). Every branch of the military provides great technical training and experience, opportunities to do some college work at an individual's pace, and has the GI Bill after they get out.
    In any of the above cases, you have a high school graduate going in, and an experienced, capable, educated and proven patriot by the time they're 28. With no debt, outstanding options and a true knowledge of what our country is all about.

    1. The military is not the place to be right now. You do not get "great technical training" and opportunities to do college work were rapidly shrinking when I got out. 5-10 years ago I would agree but not right now.

    2. Choosing the military is a personal choice I won't try to convince anyone either way. But the educational opportunites are still good. When you apply to the military they test you and if you do well in the tests you will be selected for one of the better career fields and the training they offer is top of the line. After finishing your committment you will be eligible for money for school once you get out. But while you are still in the military you can also take college classes essentially for free. I got my bachelors while I was in the service entirely paid for by Uncle Sam and I got my Masters after I got out paid for by the GI bill. I did have to buy my own books and pay any lab fees but the GI bill paid 100% of the tuition.

  14. Patrice, your girls also have the great advantage of being reared by parents who taught them how to follow a line of logic to its conclusion, how to research, and how to deeply consider the important questions of life. Many of my peers in college were never exposed to such a mindset at home or in their basic education. I worry that with school systems now "teaching to the test", and good universitites out of reach for so many, there will be even fewer young people reaching adulthood knowing how - and why- to sit down and THINK.

    1. Unfortunately many of the Big Name Universities have been so captured by diversity, political correctness, and appearances that they are resting on the laurels of their past reputation and are no longer providing the good education that made their name - yet they charge for it and more.
      If you want to get a good college education, you need to find an 'under the radar' school that is academically rigorous and inexpensive. An example of a school like that is Grove City College - who, by the way, accepts no federal funding of any kind and hasn't for 30 years.

  15. I never went on to get my Masters degree which I felt was giving a huge chunk of my salary to a college that made you jump through hoops to get more money.
    Instead, I reared my kids, learned homemaking/money-saving strategies, and lived within my means. I was available weekends, evenings, and all summer.
    My pension is not as large as most peoples', but I am debt free, eat good food, drive a paid-off car, and am happy.
    PS Patrice, have you ever thought of doing a book on photography? You are a natural.

  16. AMEN!! My husband is an engineer; we are currently working on developing two properties as our retirement strategy is, "Plan on getting kicked out early, and be self-sufficient."

    He insists that all the kids go to college.

    I insist that all the kids go to trade school.

    It isn't too hard to see that the "golden key" of my youth (how we thought of college back in the 80s) has become an extortion scheme and a meat market.

    Far better to have the skills to make your own way, than to spend tens of thousands of dollars trying to develop yourself into a "product" that some corporation wants to "buy." I do not understand why this is so difficult for so many people to see.

    1. What are they going to college for? What are they going to a trade school for? Our two nephews went to trade school. One went to school to be a mechanic to work on car engines. He is a product for a large corporation (Subaru?) who bought his skills. His cousin went to a different school and is certified to work on the electrical component of the cars. He, too, is a product that a large corporation purchased. For fun, the cousin is part of a pit team for car racing traveling around the country on weekends. Maybe this will work for him. BTW Doesn't big corporate sponsor car racing teams? My daughter went to community college for nursing. She then got her BSN. She works for a local hospital as a OR nurse. The local hospital was bought up by a large conglomerate hospital and she is a product.

      I do not understand why it is so difficult for people to see that few jobs are owned by Mom and Pop. The government is *not* kind to small businesses. This makes it difficult to earn a decent living. Big corporate gets tax breaks. The small business owner gets proportionally more than there fair share of tax requirements.

      I hope you and your husband can get this sorted out for you kids. I wish your children much success.

  17. Make no mistake, this isn't simply laying off senior engineers. The H1B program recruits foriegners who once they are employed here will work 80 hours aweek and often more for less then an American worker would work a 40+ work week. The H1B program is functioned as advertised and this isn't just laying off senior engineers. The H1B devastated the computer career field over 20 years ago and is now doing the same for other skilled professions. Think about this: H1B workers don't go home. That is if the allocation is 100,000 H1B workers that means and additional 100,000 every year. Your own government is screwing you.

  18. It's not just older engineers. I know plenty of people, including myself, who were forced out because we had too much experience and the company wanted to replace us with cheap temporary labor. I now work for myself and love it much better than working for a bunch of weasels!

    I'm thankful for my graduate and post-graduate educations too as they taught me skills and gave me a great income to be ready for a day like today.

  19. Things are a bit more complicated that they seem. For full disclosure, my husband was trained in a high skill trade and worked in that trade for many years. It was always considered the white collar job in a blue collar world. Engineers respect his skills. It was the backbone of USA manufacturing from the end of WW2 until approximately the 1990s when it disappeared here and landed in China. It won't come back as the computer has eliminated the need for the skills. For years he had his own business, but coupled with the economy and how the government treats small businesses, that, too ended. Today he works for a company that is thrilled to have his skills. The caveat is that his pay is at what he was making per hour 25 years ago, he must work a 56 hour week, but they do pay overtime, they have a very strict "break time" policy, they have vacation rules that translates into him working for two years before he can have a two week vacation, they will not give him health insurance for two months forcing us to pay for two months of insurance and we are not certain where the money is going to come from. Don't get me wrong. We are Praising God for this job! This trade has fed me since I was born, but the jobs outlook has changed considerably in the US.

    Many trades require physical labor. This is fine in ones youth, but the work takes a toll on ones body.

    There are ways to get a college education, should it be needed for a particular job, on the cheap. It takes longer. It takes fortitude. Writers and artists can forgo schooling and develop skills through other means such as classes, mentors, workshops and personal research. A good example is Ray Bradbury who considered the library, his college education. Many trades are offered in community colleges, so you are paying for college anyway, although it is more cost effective than a four year institution.

    Skills are priceless and in our family your skills base is just as important, if not more so, than your degree/career.

    It isn't 1959 any longer.