Does everyone need a college degree?

Does everyone need to go to a four-year college? The short answer is no. For some, a traditional college education isn’t affordable or even necessary.

Since 2000, the average price of attending an in-state, public four-year university has nearly doubled, with tuition, fees, and living costs surpassing $21,000 per year. At the same time, the cost to attend a private institution has skyrocketed to almost $50,000 per year, a 51 percent increase since 2000.

As the price tag ticks up, so does the amount of student debt. Currently, an estimated 45 million student borrowers owe more than $1.5 trillion collectively in student loans. It’s a financial hole that often takes decades to climb out of.

Luckily, an alternative post-high school education path exists. Trade or vocational schools—often associated with community colleges—can provide a more affordable and less time-consuming path to rewarding and well-paying careers.

Technical schools equip students with specific skills that can be applied directly to a profession. Some examples include a welder, machinist, electrician or IT support technician—all of which offer competitive pay that match the starting salary of traditional college graduates.

The best part? These careers, which often pay $50,000 or more per year, don’t come with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. In many instances, students in these programs are actually able to make money while they learn.

A traditional four-year education is required for some professions. Doctors need specific medical knowledge and training; engineers need to know how to apply the science of physics to buildings and bridges. But in today’s workforce, there are many jobs that don’t require the time and money traditional universities demand.

Everyone wants a good career. But you should know there’s more than one way to get there.

To learn more about student debt and alternative education paths, visit