Category Archives: Rethinking Higher Education

Rethinking Higher Education, Part Two: Internship vs University

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In part one of this series I spoke of the high price tag of higher education and proposed the idea that traditional college degrees were not neccessary for financial success. With that belief in mind I will spend the next few blogs explaining the proven alternatives to traditional colleges and universities.

The first alternative is an old idea, the internship.

Many years ago if a young man wanted to learn to work with metal he would approach the local blacksmith and ask to learn from the more experienced man. If the instructor agreed the young man would work for free in exchange for real life, hands on experience and education. The young student would learn how to run the blacksmith business including what to charge customers, how to accept payment, how to deal with inevitable customer conflict, working the forge, and personal responsibility, among other things.

An obvious advantage of internships is there is zero cost to the student and the student’s family. Picture a small village in colonial America with familes of meager means. Keeping food on the table is already a challenge. Asking these families to find money for the educatiin of their children would be like expecting to slap a rock with a stick and get water from it. It’s just not going to happen. But these families were not without hope. If their young son was determined, hard-working and future minded, he’d receive a valuable, FREE internship, aka apprenticeship, which would eventually help him become an entrepruener!

Nobody spends a dime, no debt is created, a skill is learned and the Blacksmith/teacher has help in his shop for a certain amount of time. That’s a win, win, win situation.

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“But Taz, aren’t internships a thing of the past?” Great question.

I searched online for “Internships in Houston, TX” and found there are a lot of both paid and unpaid internships out there of varying types. One company is in search of a “Marketing Intern to work 10-15 hours a week” offering “reimbursment for gas used at a per mile basis, free lunch during any events, experience meeting professionals at networking events…” along with several other perks. Another company offered full-time employment with great benefits after only three months as an unpaid intern. These internships offer something traditional colleges lack- practical, usable experience in the field.

Internships are alive and well and they can help you gain valuable knowledge without taking on the burden of debt. I love the concept of internships because they offer an alternative to spending a large amount of money in exchange for an education. This concept gives hope to those who are less fortunate in the area of finances. Recently I learned of a doctor who is still paying off his student loans THIRTY YEARS after earning his degree.

When I look at both the American and global economy I see there is a need to question the status quo. The American dream is harder to acheive, upper middle class citizens have lost their houses due to the dishonest practices of the banking industry, the middle class is shrinking, etc. etc.

Higher education is no different. We have to question the status quo. What do we want for our futures, financial freedom or a life of servitude to creditors like the doctor I mentioned? Obviously we want financial freedom. Then, it’s time for us to question tradition, look for alternatives like internships, place them on a scale and make an honest evaluation of what is best for our financial futures.

So, what’s your opinion on including an internship in your Higher Education plan?

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Rethinking Higher Education-Part 1: Is A College Degree Really Worth $100,000?

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I’d like to start this series by first setting the record straight concerning two particular points.

First, I honestly believe that education is very important. From infancy we start soaking in our environment, processing information, filtering out what we don’t need and using what is valuable. This allows babies to learn to walk and mimic to vocal patterns they hear which leads to their ability to communicate. We should never deny that learning is very important.

Second, I have zero animosity towards higher education institutions and those employed by them. These institutions serve an important role, passing along knowledge to the younger generation who will then add to and improve upon said knowledge.

That being said, I find it very difficult to recommend traditional colleges and universities to teens beginning their post high school education. Why? The main reason is the extreme cost which leads to years and years of bondage in the form of debt. Proverbs 27:7 says, “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender”. Years of servitude to creditors is not what I want for my children nor any other youth. I’m sure you feel the same way!

But over and over again we see freshly graduated teens signing on the dotted line, agreeing to years of bondage.

Debt is like a vampire, it feeds on your finances, drains your bank account and cripples your economic well being. As alluded to in the verse above, a life burdened with debt yields a future without financial freedom. This is simple fact.

So, why do we choose to tell our youth to begin their financial journeys tied down by the millstone of educational debt? Why do we advise them in such a way that sets them up for monetary failure and financial misery? Because we don’t know any better.

The fact is, very few folks are speaking out concerning the ineffectiveness of a college degree. Despite the hundreds who tell their personal horror stories of worthless degrees, many haven’t heard and most who have heard consider them isolated incidents. To be honest, I can’t really fault them. After all, we’ve been raised to believe college degrees are neccessities that lead to a higher earnings. From elementary on we are molded into eager college attendies. We hear the success stories of degree earners who make massive amounts of money and live the American dream all because they earned a coveted piece of paper.

What we hear much less of are the stories that tell how having a degree made no difference at all. I read a blog earlier today in which a woman explained that her neice was very disappointed in her Bachelor’s Degree because she could not find a job in her choosen career field, instead, she now works as a waitress. I’m not knocking the food service industry. I speak from personal experience when I say it’s noble, honest, hard work. But her degree hangs in a frame in her home doing her absolutely no good!

Here’s a question for you: Would you ever purchase a vehicle for $50,000- half the cost of this young waitress’s education- if you knew it would never run, never take you anywhere and never be of any use except sitting in your driveway looking good? Of course not! When we spend such a large amount of money we expect the purchased product to not only perform its function but to do so very well. Yet, this is exactly what’s happenning daily in America. We are purchasing a much larger ticket item and agreeing to pay it off slowly over multiple years, based on the idea that it’s “worth the investment”. The truth is, it’s not. Just like the useless vehicle taking up space in the driveway, there are many degrees hanging on walls, also of zero use.

Investors are familiar with the term Return On Investment or ROI. It refers to the ratio between the amount of money invested verses the amount earned. If I invest $100 dollars in stocks and then later sell them for $120 that’s a good return on my investment. I’ve made a profit of $20. Obviously, investing the same $100 in stocks and finding their value decreases to $25 is not favorable. Thats a negative Return On my Investment to the tune of $75. The same can be said for investing in a start-up company, a new invention or mutual funds. We always aim for the highest ROI possible.

Just as we would avoid a business deal or stock purchase which is not likely to produce a positive ROI, so should we do the same when deciding on an educational path. You may say, “But Taz, a college education is vital enough that it’s worth it at any price! How are we to get ahead without a degree?” Or maybe you’re wondering, “If not college, then how are we to attain the education that will help us earn a good living?” Both are legitimate questions and there are many others like them. Bright Balance Ministries will be addressing them in the “Rethinking Higher Education” series. It is our hope that this series of blogs will help steer youth towards financially successful lives free from the bondage of debt.

Stay tuned, leave comments, tell your friends about this site, and feel free to leave questions for us. We look forward to great discussions with you in the near future.