5 years of traveling the world. 3 Tesla Model 3s. 1 home in Pittsburgh, PA. Or 1 four year degree at a public in-state university. Since the 1980s “the cost to attend a university increased nearly eight times faster than wages,” according to Forbes. At this rate college will cease to be the tool that allows young people to get a steady job, to afford a family, a nice car and a yearly vacation. The middle class could become a ghost of the past. Student loan debt is putting the American Dream in peril.
Many of us seniors here at CAHS are going through the strenuous task of applying to college. Until we get the acceptance letters to our dream four year university we either suspend the reality of how much college will cost, hope our parents have a hefty college fund or pray for those miracle scholarships to come through. Others have decided to postpone the enormous cost of a four-year by attending community colleges like Palomar or MiraCosta for the next two years. But are there other alternatives to avoid long term college loan debt?
The short answer is yes, there is hope.
For those looking for the well-rounded college experience that allows an exploration of both sciences and humanities, a liberal arts school may be the best fit, but not with the hefty price tag. College of the Ozarks, Paul Quinn College and Berea College all boast of their faith-based curriculums that also place importance on community engagement and service as well as work. Between scholarships, grants and each college’s unique work program these schools strive to keep each student’s graduating loan debt at a maximum of $10,000 or less.
Nestled between the mountains of Nevada is Deep Springs College. It is the opposite of what you might imagine when you picture an Ivy League. Deep Springs is a professional cattle ranch and alfalfa farm. Students work approximately 20 hours a week in order to pay for their room, board and classes. Deep Springs prides itself in its student self-governance. The student body is small enough that they may gather once a week to make decisions concerning work, their community and academics. It is important to note that Deep Springs does not offer specific majors or degrees, but aims to prepare students to successfully transfer to four-year universities with a strong work ethic and a greater appreciation of discussion and compromise.
Holberton throws general education classes out the window. As a school teaching students to code and solve problems, Holberton is a two year program that does not waste your time. At Holberton students “learn by doing” and working with others. Instead of your typical lecture style classes, students are presented with challenges to not only teach them how to solve that specific obstacle but also to learn how to approach problems in a tech world that is constantly evolving. By learning in groups and through projects, students also amass important soft skills that give them a unique edge in the tech world. Holberton requires no tuition up front. Monthly payments begin after a student starts making at least $40,000 per year. Then over the next three and a half years that student pays monthly until they pay up to $85,000. If the student repays less than $85,000 during those three and a half years, the difference is forgiven. This cost structure is important because it allows students to be stable before they begin paying back their debt, but it also incentivizes Holberton to provide a high quality education that gets their graduates jobs so Holberton receives tuition.
Between Holberton, Deep Springs, Paul Quinn College, Berea College and College of the Ozarks there are a variety of ways to educate yourself without breaking the bank. If the point of college is to expand a student’s thinking, equip them with the tools to get a steady job and allow for social mobility, then these unique schools just might be the answer to saving the American Dream.