College Finance: Cheaper Alternatives to Traditional Secondary Education

With the ever rising costs of college tuition it is a good idea to explore cheaper alternatives to traditional secondary educations. For the 2013-2014 academic year a private college will cost around $44,700 a year while a public college will cost $22,800 a year. These exorbitant costs do not include housing, food, books, and supplies. Even with grants and loans these prices may not be an option for many. Below are several cheaper alternatives to traditional secondary education one may want to first consider before taking on the crushing debt that is college.

Alternative #1:
One option that is ‘tried-and-trued’ is that of technical training followed by an apprenticeship. Some individuals may enjoy working with their hands. If so, this is the route they may want to give serious consideration too. Below are a few jobs which require technical training verse those which require a college education. One may be surprised by the comparison.

Plumber/Pipefitter (apprenticeship) Median Pay: $49,140 10-yr Growth: 21% (fast)
Heating & Cooling Tech.(apprenticeship) Median Pay: $43,640 10-yr Growth: 21% (fast)
Historian (Master’s Degree) Median Pay: $52,480 10-yr Growth: 6% (low)
Elementary Teacher (Bachelor’s Degree) Median Pay: $52,090 10-yr Growth: 12% (avg)

Obviously the list above is not meant to be all inclusive. It is simply meant to show viable options, which do not put you into debt, do exist. Above are just the median pay wages and excluded top earners. Would you have thought, in a million years, a plumber in Southeast Alaska earns $82,000 a year?

Alternative #2:
A second option, though not entirely popular, is to join the military. Granted, the military is not for everyone. Less than 1% of eligible Americans join the military each year. However; those who do join the military enjoy the following in terms of education:

– Tuition assistance for those on active duty
– GI Bill for those who separate from the military (transferable)
– College debt pay-off (for some)
– Viable training and, of course, travel

Anecdotally I can attest to the military option having left the military after 12-years of service with a Master’s Degree and $0 in debt. Again, not an option for everyone, but one cannot deny the results.

Alternative #3:
Lastly, an option gaining a lot of buzz these days is the free open online course being offered by many top colleges both stateside and abroad. Have you ever dreamed of attending college level courses at Yale, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Northwestern, or Harvard Universities? The major drawbacks being the courses are offered at no credits earned. Despite not earning credits for attending these courses, if one is able to retain the subject matter, the possibilities are endless.

Unfortunately the cost of a quality college education has sky-rocketed over the last several decades. Fortunately there are many options available to us which, if one is willing to explore, are completely viable and do not involve massive amounts of debt.

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