Why a Traditional College Can Be a Bad Idea

As the current school year comes to an end, many high school students are considering which college they’ll attend next year, and many have already applied. However, many people decide to attend a brick-and-mortar college without considering alternative ways to get their degree. When one looks at the case against attending a traditional college, other options are worth considering.

For starters, college is expensive. $2,500 per semester is at the lower end of the scale, and that comes out to $20,000 over the course of four years. These costs only cover tuition, not including books, housing, food, and other living expenses. Private colleges are even more expensive. Some people would include lost wages as being part of the costs of attending college, and this leads to the second argument.

College can mean a lifetime of debt. As there’s no guarantee that the degree will lead to a job, taking out student loans isn’t always advisable. Many college graduates can’t pay the loans back, which can lead to credit problems. Some employers won’t hire employees with less-than-the-best credit, and this makes it even harder to find a job. Even if one can make the minimum payments, the amount due each month often means that even with the higher income  gained through the college degree, one’s living standards are the same as they would have been without it. At the same time, many college graduates are making less than one would expect, and are working in jobs which don’t require a college degree.  Students  also have to be careful who they borrow from. With some less-than-honest loan providers, the balance of the loan continues to rise even when the minimum payments are being made.

The social environment of many colleges is another argument against going, as the colleges are getting just as dangerous as the high schools. Single rooms are a rarity in the dormitories, and one often has no say over who their roommate will be. There are a lot of tough kids on campus. Anybody who was sharing a room with one would have to keep a sharp eye on their wallet and other belongings at all times. You can’t just leave your wallet on the side table like you can at home. The situation in the dormitory bathrooms isn’t much better. Not only do the shower stalls not have locks, but some people don’t believe in flushing. Also, the kitchens must often be shared by a large number of students.

This may sound odd, but there’s often no quiet place to study on campus. The dormitory I lived in at the University of Memphis usually had loud rap music pounding from somewhere, along with the tough sorts communicating at top volume, punctuated by loud screams. These people would often turn aggressive if they were asked to be quieter, and I often feared for my personal saftey. Even the library was sometimes populated by the loud and tough sorts.

There’s also the issue of on-campus violence. Although massacres like the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting are rare, violence on a smaller scale isn’t uncommon.

Housing is often a problem for college students. Students who live more than commuting distance away from relatives not only have the costs of dorm rent. The airfare or other transportation costs to get to the university don’t only have to be paid in August and May, but also during Christmas and Thanksgiving break, when the dorms are sometimes closed and people usually want to be at home. There’s also Spring break when the dorms are often closed.

Academic standards are going down, and this makes it easier for the tough sorts to get in. The ironic thing about college is that the coursework is best suited for somebody who enjoys studying, but the worsening environment at many colleges makes it more advisable for an academically-oriented student to study at home.

Some people woukd argue the “college experience” is worthwhile in itself. If this is true, why do excessive drinking, drugs, promiscuity, and a general bad attitude play such a major role in it? These are hardly the attitudes of people who are having fun.

Another argument is that college can give you valuable career contacts which you wouldn’t get through independant study. If one is attending college for this reason, it might be an idea to do as many of the credits through credit-by-exam as possble, and only do the courses which are directly linked to the major on campus. If the school has a limit as to how many CLEP or DANTES exams they’ll accept, maybe one could take the courses for the major on campus, and then transfer them to a school which is more generous in this area, like Excelsior or Thomas Edison State College. Another idea might be to do the bachelor’s degree through independant study, and then attend a brick-and-mortar university for graduate school.

The purpose of this blog is to discuss cheaper alternative ways to earn college credits and college degrees without going into debt. I’m currently studying independantly for the CLEP exams in chemistry and biology.

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