A Trade Vs. College

Recently I read an article in the Wall Street Journal reporting that about 22% of recipients are defaulting on federal student loans, more than double the total of just four years ago. The amount owed the U.S. government is a staggering $84 billion.

A Case for Trade School

Students and former students who default on their federal loan obligations can have their income garnished to pay back the loans. If you’re not familiar with the term, garnishment is a legal procedure in which are person’s earnings can be withheld by an employer to pay off a debt. Federal law allows up to 25% of after-tax income to be garnished.

In the case of the federal government, garnishment can even touch social security payments. That may not be of much concern to young people who are decades away from collecting social security, but it could present an immediate hefty burden on parents who took out or co-signed a child’s student loan.

College tuition has risen almost 400% over the past three decades, according to the College Board. It’s very hard for the average student (or parents) to afford paying for college these days without taking out student loans. In its most recent survey of college pricing, the College Board reports that a "moderate" college budget for an in-state public college for the 2016–2017 academic year averaged $24,610. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $49,320 per year. Expenses at the most prestigious schools will run even higher.

The averages just cited translate to between $100,000-$200,000 to obtain a degree in four years. But wait! According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only about 40% of full-time students graduate within four years.

What’s more, other studies have found that more than a third of college graduates are under-employed in jobs that don’t require a college degree, and many others are working in low-paying fields where student loan payments take a large chunk of their income. That’s why so many recent college graduates go back to living with their parents rather than setting up their own households.

The high-cost of college and diminishing returns on the investment make it a great idea to explore alternative career opportunities – especially for young people who don’t have a particular career goal in mind. Plumbing and other skilled trades offer some of the best alternatives.

Dutton Plumbing and many other companies in the service trades offer “earn while you learn” training to people with mechanical aptitude and congenial personalities. Our trainees earn a living wage as helpers and apprentices for however long it takes to get to the point where he or she can go it alone in a service vehicle. Some of our service technicians were recruited as youngsters right out of high school, while others switched careers or dropped out of college. Over the years we’ve even employed a few college graduates as plumbers once they discovered they could make more money and be happier working with the tools of our trade rather than pushing paper in some drab office job.

Think about this if you have someone among your family or friends with mechanical skills or aptitude. Don’t fall prey to the belief that only a college education offers a pathway to a rewarding career with great income potential. If you know someone who loves building and fixing things and likes working with people, send him or her our way.