Rethinking College During the Pandemic? 4 Options That May Pay Better Than a 4-Year Degree
If there ever was a benefit of a global pandemic, it may just be how it has caused us to rethink our lives.
Flying, dining out, hugging a friend, and going to the theater are all very different than they were in early March 2020 and things we took for granted.
Also different? College.
While some schools have reopened, others remain virtual in an effort to keep students safe. And when thrown into a virtual education program, many students are wondering if they should bother paying for the high cost of college if they aren't actually on a college campus.
It's good to rethink college in the traditional sense, as well as what the future holds when thrown into a recession. Where will you be 5 or 10 years for now?
“For a while now, people have been realizing that college simply isn’t the only way to prepare for a rewarding career,” says Eric Tyson, author of “Paying for College for Dummies.” “As costs have continued to rise, many had already been questioning the return on investment."
“It’s just that now the pandemic has brought us to something of a tipping point,” he continues. “Suddenly, more and more families are realizing that ... alternatives might be a smart choice for their students. There’s been a discernible mindset shift.”
If you are rethinking college, here are options to a 4-year degree that can provide a solid future for you.
Demand for computer programs remains high, particularly for coders. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found the median income for programs was $86,550 in 2019. In Boston, salaries for developers, engineers, and programmers ranged from $88,225 to $103,389.
Unable to fill roles by waiting for coders to get through college, boot camps led by industry leaders are working to train would-be techies in a matter of weeks rather than years. Much of the time in these types of boot camps is spent working in teams on projects to learn a skill, most often coding.
The average training is about 3.5 months and hovers around $12,000. Compare that to the average cost of tuition, $122,000, and the savings are eye-opening.
A data science immersive bootcamp is one of many offered by Galvanize. It reports that 84% of its graduates find jobs within 6 months, earning an average starting salary of $70,000. Its data science grads earn an average of $95,000.
For $30,000 in tuition, PrepMD provides training in the medical device industry. It claims a 94% placement rate within 3 months of graduation at an average annual salary of $90,000.
The Always Hired bootcamp trains people to work in technology sales. It has a 90-day placement rate. Students pay a $200 deposit for the camp and Always Hired only gets paid more when their students get hired. It receives up to 6% of the student’s first-year salary.
College Minimum Viable Products
For those still interested in the college program, minimum viable product, or MVP, programs combine technical skill training and placement of bootcamp programs with cognitive and non-cognitive skill development received at a school.
In these programs, like Always Hired's model, you pay for the education through an income-share agreement. This means you pay a small portion of your salary for a short period of time, attending school for free.
San Francisco’s Holberton School, for example, offers a coding MPV program that usually takes 2 years to complete. Grads pay 17% of their income during the first 3 years of working and earning at least $40,000 per year.
An apprenticeship provides on-the-job training and pays you for the work, meaning you are being paid to learn instead of paying to learn.
Although there may be some costs associated with programs, it is as low as $2,000 and employers may provide reimbursement programs.
And these are not low-paying jobs. In 2018, a study of union construction workers who had trained via apprenticeship earn an average of $40.40 by mid-career versus $35.28 per hour earned by someone with a bachelor's degree.
Trade jobs provide both in-classroom and on-the-job educations with apprenticeships available to aspiring electricians, carpenters, plumbers, carpenters, machinists, and steelworkers as an example of opportunities.
The Department of Labor also identifies apprenticeship occupations in healthcare, financial services, pharmacy, and IT.
More companies are adding apprenticeships, including Accenture for technology jobs such as cloud support associates and data center technicians. Accenture has more than 400 apprenticeships across 23 organizations but is aiming to grow to 2,000 apprenticeships.
College Cooperative Educational Experiences
College Cooperative Educational Experiences, or co-ops, integrate college studies with on-the-job-training. These programs are offered by four-year colleges, which means you will be paying tuition and fees. However, in the program you will work part- or full-time, not only getting paid but earning credit toward school.
The money you earn could be used to pay for the schooling and the work is directly related to your major. And another benefit? Instead of relying on an abstract view of working in a specific career, you get to do the actual work and gain experience. Students leave with real-world experience they can use to land a job in their field and often are hired by the companies in which they have gained experience.
While it sounds like an internship, it isn’t. A cooperative program can last over two semesters in a junior or senior year of college. Some programs encourage students to only work in their programs and to not take classes while in it, which could add a year to earning a degree.
Whether you go to college or not, the ultimate goal is to have a good job and career in a field you want to work in. A college education is expensive and could leave you in debt that takes years to pay off while some offering programs outside of universities may have you earning faster without the hefty student loans.