Four-year college is not the only path to prosperity

Jada Caldwell, Copy Editor

Typically, when you’re a little kid, all you want to do is grow up and be “like the big kids.” And for many of us, all the “big kids” we idolized went to college.

Upon entering high school, it’s as though everywhere you turn, someone is saying you must do this or that because it makes you “attractive” to colleges, but aren’t we long past the point of believing that graduating from a traditional four-year college is necessary in order to achieve success?

It would be too simple to say that this is confirmed by individuals such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, who all dropped out of college yet became billionaires. What they did is rare.

No, it’s average citizens who truly show that there are different avenues to success.

My mom, for instance, didn’t go to college, but by gaining experience and working her way up in the medical field, she was able to support four children by herself. Then, when our family was comfortable financially, she attended college online and landed her dream job after graduating.

And while several of the “big kids” ahead of us went to four-year colleges immediately after graduating, they also went into debt, lots of debt.

We live in a country with an ever-rising tuition rate, which over the past decade has increased approximately 3 percent each year according to College Board.

Then last year, as reported by the Federal Reserve, the national student loan debt surpassed $1.5 trillion.

Thus, by her decision, my mom isn’t saddled with copious amounts of debt.

That being said, delaying post-secondary education is not for everyone, and there are alternatives.

Online degrees and associates degrees at community colleges are much less expensive than four-year tuition. Many of these degrees lead to lucrative jobs. According to, some of the top 20 salaries for two-year degrees in 2018 included salaries ranging from $38K to $140K.

For those possessing a specific talent or interest, there are beauty and trade schools. Trade schools are an alternative and more affordable method of learning a multitude of professions. These professions span from a welder to a legal assistant to a commercial diver to IT professionals to dental hygienists. Different professions require more time than others.

Outside of these options, there is the choice to join a branch of the military. There are quite a few tuition assistance programs available within the military, but the most notable one is the Montgomery GI Bill. With this program, the amount of money you earn is dependent on how long and in what capacity you serve. Over $50K can potentially be earned, and all branches’ full-time duty members are eligible to earn the same benefits. The only requirement is that, for the duration of your first year of service, you give $100 every month.

The majority of the things I’ve done throughout high school have been with a four-year college in sight. At the beginning of this school year, I put immense effort into my applications and fortunately was accepted, but I still wonder. What if after these upcoming four years, no one will hire me? Nothing is guaranteed.

Explore your options. Look to and talk to other “big kids” who blazed different trails and avoided taking on a daunting mountain of debt. There are many routes available to take after high school. All are viable and have their own benefits, so by no means is college pointless, but it is unrealistic for it to be considered the only secret to prosperity.