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.