A college degree is losing value in the marketplace and at the same time becoming more expensive. This leaves young people in a difficult spot, as no one wants to rack up loads of debt for a degree that may not even lead to a job. However, there are still good options for young men and women considering what to do after high school.
Option One: Skip College Altogether.
The first option is to forego the whole process. Instead of attending college, young people can pursue a trade school (e.g. plumbing) or just find a job and work their way up. There are great resources available for job training, such as Praxis or Skillshare.
However, this route may disappoint parents, many of whom still expect their children to go to college (though this notion should be challenged). Further, though the value of a college degree is decreasing, there are still many jobs that require a degree (especially fields like engineering). Thus a person who took another route could regret foregoing college earlier in life.
In response to these concerns, it should be noted that an 18-year-old who makes $30,000 per year after high school and has no debt is probably in a better position than a 22-year-old who makes the same amount after college and has $50,000+ in loans (or worse, who cannot find a job at all). There are also many people who hate school and for whom college is not a good fit. So there are some serious advantages to the job/trade school route.
Option Two: Make College Cheaper.
The second option is to try to cut costs associated with college. It is expensive to attend a four-year private or public university, even with a scholarship. Tuition is rising well above inflation, in part because federal loans increase the demand for a college degree and in turn allow the universities to jack up the price.
So it is probably best to not attend a four-year university right away. The cheaper route it to gain college credit through alternative means. One alternative is to live at home and attend a community college for a year or two, and then transfer these credits into a four-year university. (Just check ahead of time to make sure the community college credits will transfer.) This saves money on tuition and on living expenses.
Another alternative is to acquire college credits without going to college. Some high schools have Advanced Placement tests for this purpose, where a student can receive college credit by scoring high enough on a test at the end of the class.
Similarly, students can take CLEP exams for college credit. (CLEP stands for College Level Examination Program.) If a student passes a CLEP exam, he or she will receive college credit for that subject. And over 2,900 universities accept CLEP credit.
There are 36 different subjects for CLEP exams. These include business, literature, foreign languages, history, economics, science, math, and more (see the prep books below). The tests take about 90 minutes each, and they are offered at a variety of locations.
CLEP exams offer a dual-benefit—they provide motivation for a high level of study (especially for homeschoolers), and they provide students with college credit for cheap. The tests are only around $85 per test. Compare that with a college class that is usually thousands of dollars in tuition!
CLEP exams are a great alternative for homeschool students who want to receive college credit while still in high school (or adults wanting to go back to school). Students can study subjects in depth and then take a CLEP exam for credit. But be aware that CLEP exams take work. They require self-study and are therefore ideal for motivated students. However, with the right tools, students can prepare sufficiently for these tests. There are many online resources to help students prepare for CLEP exams.
There are also book resources to help with CLEP exams, including this official study guide. There are also test prep books for the following subjects:
- natural sciences
- human growth and development
- U.S. History I
- U.S. History II
- American Government
- Western Civilization I
- Western Civilization II
- American literature
- analyzing and interpreting literature
- business law
Many young people are making disastrous financial decisions in regards to education. But for those willing to put in the work, CLEP exams provide a huge opportunity to minimize your debt and better situate yourself for the future.