I have a degree from UC Berkeley that cost me zero dollars to acquire. My parents contributed zero dollars. I got it by climbing up through the junior college system, working two jobs to cash flow expenses, keeping my grades up like it was my third job, and applying for every single scholarship and grant I could.
Sounds like bragging right? It is. This is the kind of bragging people should be doing all the time. If you do something awesome and other people can easily do it, shout that shit out. If you’re reading this, you can probably do what I did.
I’ve coached about half a dozen people on this method and they’ve all gone far without any need to take on debt. Some of them took out student loans for shit they didn’t need, but that’s their fault. I almost did the same thing, but I can do 5th grade level math and after I calculated the interest, I realized I really didn’t need to be paying for a vacation to Thailand for the next 30 years, with interest.
The bummer about the loans is every dickhead college advisor makes them seem like a good idea. Fuck these people. They deserve the same hatred we pour on the pieces of shit that wrote up all the bad home loans that caused the 2008 crash. I remember sitting down with one of these assholes and she spent about two minutes trying to tell me what classes I should take to transfer to a UC (she was totally wrong) and then 20 minutes telling me what loans I’d be eligible for. I wouldn’t be surprised if these cretins got some sort of kickback, but the reality is they think horrifying debt is normal and you may as well start building your credit. Don’t take financial advice from broke people, unless you want to be broke too.
There should be a law that requires student advisors to calculate the interest rate and monthly payments for students so they know what they’re getting into. They should also be forced to provide real data on the salaries that each major can expect after graduation. If the cost to benefit ratio seems weak, they should provide information about traditional trade schools and non-academic career paths including small business entrepreneurship.
If you’re into unions, this could be a tremendous way for them to swell their ranks and provide better lives for Americans. I’ve had my own negative interactions with lazy as fuck union bastards, but my father-in-law was a leader in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and he really changed my opinion on what they can do for people. He was a very stand up dude. At his funeral, so many people came up to my wife and told her how much he and the union had done for them. They were trained in viable trades that allowed them to own homes and provide for their families. They were educated in things people need to know, not in made up concepts like “intersectionality.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love reading totally effete theory books, but I never expected that knowledge to pay the bills (it hasn’t). It’s just fun to think about and it’s great to stretch your perspective. But you don’t need to sink an assload of money into it. Thanks to the internet there are forums filled with really smart people who love discussing this stuff. You know where it’s rare to find smart people who like this stuff? College.
“But…but…but…education is a right.”
Yes it is. You have the right to educate yourself by any means possible. Lots of conservatives shit on Malcolm X, but that dude is a hero of mine. He was bright as fuck and educated himself while he was in prison. He had some religiously induced antisocial perspectives, but the more he learned, the more rational his perspective became. I consider his biography to be one of the most inspirational books of all time.
Despite Ben Affleck’s involvement, I love the film Good Will Hunting. The scene where Will metaphorically puts his nuts on the pony-tailed college dork’s chin in the Harvard bar is the best. You too can read serious books and find smart people to talk about them with. I’ve gone to a few academic oriented Meetup.com groups and they’re super fun. Do that.
“But…but..but… Bernie Sanders will save us!”
Nope. All he has promised is a potential 2 years of college. That’s basically community college which is so fucking cheap pretty much any motivated American can afford it now. If it’s really that important you can make it happen.
“But…but…but…how will people get hired without degrees?”
If you believe the billionaires of Silicon Valley, you don’t even need college anymore. Anyone who has built a business knows how worthless most degrees are. This isn’t to say that there aren’t things to learn at college. I consider myself very enriched my a number of my classes, but not so enriched that the average student debt would’ve justified the cost. If you’re talking about education for education’s sake, then college does not have the monopoly. You can join organizations dedicated to your interests, watch lectures online, take free courses offered by colleges like Yale and Stanford.
I learned more about Philosophy listening to The Partially Examined Life and reading their forums than I ever did in college. The great thing about these online communities is they’re made up entirely of people actually interested in the subject. There’s something nice about talking face to face in a class, but in my experience most people don’t read the assignments and the ones who do are trying to get the professor’s attention so they can get better grades (I know I did).
If you’re motivated, you can even get advice from professors at schools you haven’t even attended. Over the years I’ve sent dozens of emails to professors of subjects I was interested in learning more about. Most of the cool ones will send you reading lists and sometimes a syllabus from their class. The last email I sent out was to a professor of Aztec studies at the University of Arizona. I was curious about a claim I kept seeing on quinoa packages; that quinoa was a staple food of the warrior class of the Aztec empire. I was beginning to think it was bullshit because I couldn’t verify it, but he found an obscure passage in an old book that referenced a quinoa gruel warriors would eat before fighting. He was actually totally stoked and flattered that someone involved in marketing quinoa would take the time to reach out.
There’s an important lesson there. People who are really into learning about things, also love talking them. I answer every single email I get about copywriting or working for Whole Foods (thanks to LinkedIn I get a few a year). If you’re curious about something, ask an expert. If someone’s curious about something you have expertise in, share that shit.
The only professor who hasn’t responded was Neil De Grasse Tyson, so fuck him and fuck astrology. I don’t even believe in that shit anyway.
Getting a job is all about who you know anyway. My fancy ass degree hasn’t opened a single door for me. I will concede that graduating from a career specific major (law, medicine, science) from a top ten school is probably a nice to have if you want to land a job at a top organization. That said, if you graduate from an ok school with no debt, you’ll still be able to work in the same field. If you can articulate your personal education, work history and skills to a hiring manager, you should be golden.
I would rather hire a smart person with no degree and no debt than some entitled fuckwad sitting on $100K worth of debt from their Communist Comp Lit degree. Both are functionally useless to the job market, but at least the debt free kid will have low enough overhead to handle a few years of paying her dues.
“But…but…but…you make connections at college.”
True. It’s crazy how awesome college is for connections. Oh wait, I mean hookups. College is awesome for hooking up. That’s about it.
If you’re looking to network, just go to a networking event in your area, or in a city you’d like to live. A few years ago I went to an app developer mixer. I got to see the dudes from Uber get on stage and talk about their idea when it was just out of beta testing. I was actually way more impressed with an earlier speaker who presented their astronomy app (I’m actually quite fond of astronomy, despite Tyson’s bullshit). Boy was I wrong.
I met a guy from India that night who had travelled to San Francisco using money that was supposed to go to his honeymoon. He was looking for a job and came out for a week to interview at a few places and attend mixers just like the one we were at. That man is a fucking badass. I can’t even imagine what balls it must’ve taken to tell his wife-to-be he was going to spend that money trying to get a better life. That is real sacrifice and that is what you’ll be competing with in the global job market. Think about that when you’re stacking your schedule with classes like Harry Potter and the Industrial Revolution or Safe Spaces 101. There are math and programming savages coming for your humanities ass.
“But…but…but…you seem mean.”
Yes. Yes I am. But I also really care about people and I hate seeing folks step on financial landmines. All I’m saying is that you can do school cheaper and no matter what you end up paying, make sure you have career potential that can cover the expense of your degree.
Look, college can be pretty amazing and if you apply yourself, you can pick up some very useful skills. I took an Intellectual Property law class on a lark and I use what I learned in that class all the time. I also took the English department’s world famous Shakespeare class. I can’t even believe how much it enriched my enjoyment of The Bard.
But don’t believe the hype about it setting you up for automatic success. That’s totally dependent on your will to grind.