College Degree On A Dime: Better Yet, Some One Else’s Dime


In 2018 Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and Returning The Favor was quoted saying “…We’re lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back so they can pursue jobs that no longer exist…”.

Mike continues to promote skilled labor education; where tuition is more affordable plus the time between enrollment, graduation and full-time employment is shorter than the traditional 4-year College or University. The conjecture is that not everyone should go to college. Which, of course, is true.

However, it is also true that not everyone is cut out for skilled labor. The word skilled worker means a craft, trade, or job requiring manual dexterity, special training or a gift for mechanics in which a person has competence and experience.

Let’s face it, not everyone is cut out for that either. We need skilled tradesmen, but we also need people that can crunch the numbers, read market trends, handle the human resource and design the products and services that we all need.

So… how do we educate people for non-skilled labor without putting them into $70,000 worth of debt for a $35,000 per year starting wage? It’s anecdotal evidence, but I’ll tell you how I earned my Associates of Arts degree, my Bachelor of Science degree and recently a Master of Science degree while spending a meager $10,000 of my own money.

In the summer of 1980, I enrolled at a local community college to study for an associate degree. My parents co-signed with me for a $10,000 student load and off to trade school I went. Two years later I have an Associates of Art Degree, but alas no job offers of greater than $10,000 per year. So, I go back to my parents’ home to regroup.

Thankfully, mom had a friend at the Nebraska Job Service who helped me to parlay my technical degree and the experience of a summer job as a grain inspector into my first full time real job. 3M hired me into their Quality Control department as a Quality Inspector.

3M invested in my formal education in the fall of 1993 when I was approached by my boss about finishing my bachelor’s degree. 3M supported 100% of the tuition and books.

In December of 1994 I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. Upon delivering proof of graduation to my boss, within days I was given a healthy raise in pay. That was a pleasant and unexpected surprise.

The bachelor’s degree has gotten my foot in the door for many job interviews, which in turn has become several well-paying and satisfying jobs over the years.

One year after being hired by Hubbell Incorporated, my boss informed me that we have a tuition reimbursement program in the company. She encouraged me to utilize the program for continuing education in Quality. I told her that I’d always wanted to study for a master’s degree and she enthusiastically supported the idea.

In the fall of 2017 Hubbell Incorporated, approved my master’s degree program. In November of 2020 I finished a Master of Science in Management degree. That’s 3 college degrees, plus three Professional Certifications that were paid for by employers for a grand total of $10,000 out of pocket expenses.

The bottom line is: You don’t have to go into great debt or obtain a full ride scholarship to get a degree at reasonable cost to you. It can be on a dime…well, on someone else’s dime if you keep your eyes open and make the right moves as opportunity presents itself.

Published by R Dub's Rub

Conversational BLOG writer and contributing writer for LocaLeben magazine. My BLOG entries represent observations that intrigue, amuse, inspire or stimulate my appetite.

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