Alternatives to college: The discussion continues

Ever since I started talking about alternatives to higher education, first by promoting Michael Ellsberg’s “Education of Millionaires” and more recently Blake Boles’ “Better Than College” (I recommend you read them both for a great one-two punch of self directed education inspiration), I’ve had more than a few conversations revolving around college.

Specifically, those conversations involve people going out of their way to tell me why they loved college, all the great things about college, all the great programs available in colleges if you know where to look, etc.

All of which may be true.

I think a lot of times people miss the point of looking at alternatives to college.   It is not necessarily that the college experience is bad or unfulfilling (though many times it is that, too – see below) but more that whatever experience college is providing can be had elsewhere for a lot less.  So when people tell me all the great programs they know about in college, I just nod my head.  At the end of their (usually) long speech, I ask, “But what if a family can’t afford the tuition?”  or “So you’re saying that the  fun of college is worth the 100K price tag?”  or sometimes “And how much debt are you willing to go into to have that experience?  Wouldn’t it be better to make money while expanding your worldview?  Or at the very least break even?”

Also, what about the millions of people for whom college does nothing?   Don’t start arguing me on this point because I’ll respond by typing up a list of people I know personally who were not fulfilled, either personally or professionally, by their college experience.  I guarantee you it will dwarf any list you can create of people who state that their university experience was directly responsible for their current happiness, both personal and professional.

To back up my point, here are three links to things you should read. I found them in the last chapter of “Better Than College”, which of course you’ve all purchased by now, so you’ll see these links yourself.  Right?

The first is a blog post by Chris Guillebeau, author of “The $100 Startup”, titled Qualifications.

Second, from James Altucher, “8 Alternatives to College”, (I love his response to “but not everyone can be an entrepreneur”, which I get a lot) and finally from my friend Michael Ellsberg, “Life Lessons from a Fire Breathing Stilt Walking Billionaire”.

Even if every single person you know absolutely loved college, learned more than they expected, can’t imagine their lives any other way and had no problem paying for any of it or paying off their loans  (and if that’s the case, I would remind you that these are probably the same people telling you they live in a gorgeous rural area that is only a 20 minute commute to midtown Manhattan during rush hour, or who live near a ‘really great’ public school in the city), I encourage you to keep an open mind.

You never know what you might find there.

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