Do You Have to Go to College? Nope! Here’s Why Skipping College Makes Financial Sense

Over the past few decades, the societal push to get high school graduates straight into college has been strong. And it’s with good intentions too – the belief over these years has been that going to college is the best way to land a high paying job and achieve financial (and personal) success! But more and more, people are asking: do you have to go to college? And is it financially the best option?

The real answer is that, for millions of people, skipping college could be the best financial decision you make in your lifetime! Read on to learn more about why avoiding the college route can benefit your journey towards happiness.

Tuition Fees Are Crippling for New Generations

The biggest hurdle when it comes to justifying college is the upfront cost. In just the last 20 years alone, average college tuition has spiked over 130%. Compared to the decades prior to that, and you’re looking at even bigger increases, while the average pay for younger workers is up only 19%. That means, compared to your parents or their parents, the costs of college are going to stay with you for far longer. In fact, more recent college graduates admit to planning to pay off their college loans for close to the rest of their lives!

While college can be a great investment for some careers, this significant cost means setting your financial independence on the backburner. Many degrees can lead to jobs which afford you the option to pay off your loans sooner, but even in the best case scenarios, you’re still looking at several years of debt.

One of the biggest advantages of going into the trades is the lower cost of education. Unlike college, where students often need to take on large amounts of debt to pay for tuition, trade schools and apprenticeships often have much lower costs. This means that students can get the training they need to start a career without incurring the same level of debt as college students.

Learn While You Earn

The average bachelor’s degree takes four years to complete. That’s a long commitment to education before getting even a taste of work in your destined industry – and start earning notable wages!

Going into a trade can offer a more direct path to a well-paying career, without the time investment of a college degree. Students in college typically earn their way with part-time jobs that aren’t within their long-term career goals. The world needs every job, and any job experience teaches you critical social and work skills, but if you’re thinking of going into IT, business, or medical fields, the time you spend stocking shelves or delivering food isn’t building skills that employers typically want to see.

Apprenticeships, on the other hand, give you direct access to your intended career while you learn the trade. You work with mentors who can give you more direct education and training, fitted to how you learn. More importantly: you’re earning money at the same time. That means you’re not trying to balance work life and education, on top of likely earning a better wage!

The Finish Line for Training is the Starting Gate for Your Career

Trade careers often offer good earning potential right out of the gate. Many tradespeople, such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters, can earn a good living right after completing their training. This can make it easier to pay off any debt they may have incurred while in training, and start saving for the future.

Even the most driven college graduates tend to struggle making the transition from finishing their degree to finding a job. The reasons are complicated, but some of the most common reasons are: the giant push for college means a college degree simply isn’t as unique or valuable as it once was, these jobs want experience as much as they want education, or the jobs candidates are looking for aren’t available in their area.

Avoiding the “skills gap” that often exists between college graduates and the job market is hard when you’ve spent years learning instead of working. Many college graduates find themselves without the specific skills needed to succeed in the job market, while tradespeople are in high demand. This means that tradespeople are often able to find jobs which pay a sustainable wage more easily than college graduates.

Be Happy with Your Job

Let’s forget financial security for a second. What about satisfaction? Do you have to go to college to be happy with your career? This one is easy – the answer is an enthusiastic “no!”

Like any job, the careers one can find themselves in following four years of college could be the most fulfilling thing they experience, or a surprise disappointment that leaves them feeling lost. While the same can be true of the trades, trade jobs all have one thing in common: tangible results.

Tradespeople are often able to see the direct benefit of their labor, which isn’t always true for industries surrounding popular four-year degrees. Things like a finished building, a working piece of machinery, or restoring non-functional infrastructure triggers a part of our brain that says “I did this and it makes me proud.” This can be a great source of motivation and fulfillment in one’s career.

Again, there’s no reasons you can’t find that happiness in a job you earned following a trip to college. But it feels like everything is stacked against college graduates. Between the delayed start in your career, the looming dread from years of loan repayments, and the potential for spending all that time and money only to realize you’re not happy doing what you’re doing makes college the real risk.

Lastly, consider this: the worst-case scenario if you try the trades first is a few years of earning money and learning skills that will assuredly help you in your day-to-day life. Even if you decide afterwards to go to college, you’ll be in a better financial position and a few years wiser to know it’s the right choice for you.


Ken Rusk is a blue-collar entrepreneur who has started several successful endeavors and mentored hundreds of young people in their pursuit of a satisfying career and fulfilling life. Discover how Ken’s approach to life and work can help you set and achieve your goals – all while avoiding the nearly inescapable trap of college debt. Get a copy the Wall Street Journal bestselling book, Blue Collar Cash today!