Education Empowerment

Experience is Better Than a Degree

This article was authored by Bruno Rodriguez Puccinelli, an intern at Libertas Institute.

America’s  student loan debt is alarming. A report shows that the total amount of student loan debt in the US is around 1.7 trillion. 

In the face of such debt, how does the average student in the United States cope?

Around 15% of all borrowers are behind on their payments. Additionally, the standard debtor takes an average of 20 years to pay their debt.

If college students have goals in mind after graduation, they might have to wait a while before they are in a position to accomplish them.

Mark Hamrick, a senior economic analyst at Bankrate said this, “Our surveys traditionally have found that student loan debt can prompt individuals to decide to delay other key events in their lives including marriage, having children, or purchasing a home or vehicle. It can also have a negative impact on retirement savings and/or emergency savings.”

According to a recent study, 52 percent of students after graduation are underemployed. This means that they are working at a job that does not require a bachelor’s degree.

A survey of 1,600 graduate students shows that 50% of them did not apply for entry-level jobs because they felt that they were underqualified.

Another survey shows that 40% of business owners consider recent graduates unprepared to enter the workforce.

Higher education needs to respond to the market by being shorter, cheaper, and most importantly build skills that students need.

Students must carefully evaluate their options and think about what is best for them before deciding to enroll in college. Higher education is not the only way and there are many interesting alternatives.

Gap Year

Students should not rush into more schooling after high school. Taking time off can help them explore their interests and learn more about what truly matters to them. 

I took a gap year. I graduated from high school when I was 16 and I did not have a clue what to do with my life. I was interested in so many things that choosing only one was very hard.

I was lucky that my parents supported me and after that gap year, everything was more clear. Now I can look back and reflect on the many mistakes I avoided thanks to that period of reflection and personal growth.

Trade Schools

Another alternative is trade schools. These schools specialize in technical learning and are characterized by their short periods and hands-on experience. 

Trade schools are usually finished in two years or less and subsequently are more affordable than universities. They offer a wide range of programs that can help students become a medical assistant, plumber, electrician, cosmetologist, carpenter, web developer, and more


Entrepreneurship might be the best for those students who already know what to do with their lives and are oriented to business. 

According to statistics, 3 out 5 teenagers are open to the idea of entrepreneurship instead of pursuing a traditional job. There are a lot of resources and information out there that can help to build their ideas like finding a mentor or joining a business accelerator program for start-ups. 

This is a very unique path where passion, networking, and discipline converge. 

It is important to recognize that college is not the only path to success. That may or may not be the best choice. In the end, all roads can lead to Rome.

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, reflects on this topic by saying: “I am going to make sure that Tesla recruiting does not have anything that says/requires university because that is absurd. But there is a requirement of evidence of exceptional ability. I don’t consider going to college evidence of exceptional ability. In fact, ideally, you dropped out.”

Parents and students should consider other paths to gain experience, not a degree.