USA Today recently reported the average college tuition has risen 15% between 2008 and 2010, and increased up to 40% in states like Georgia, Florida and California. Some private colleges and universities can cost more per semester than Ivy League schools. Rising costs mean higher student loans and a larger debt load after graduation. With a tight job market, lower salaries and taking longer to find the right job, it may make sense to jump into the job market before you get your college diploma.
The dream of four or five years of college life, fraternity parties, semesters in Europe and high-paying internships may be a thing of the past. The harsh realities of a sluggish economy with traditional jobs gone forever calls for a new game plan. Here are six reasons why it may be a smart career move to get into the workforce at some level before graduation:
1. Can you say “tuition reimbursement?” I planned on getting my degree in journalism from Marquette University after high school, but life intervened and my plans changed. After marriage, two children and several moves coast-to-coast, I ended up in Rockville, Maryland. I got a job as a secretary at Marriott’s headquarters when my kids were in high school and decided to go back to school as well. Marriott had a tuition reimbursement plan, so after completing my first year I qualified and started taking classes at the local community college.
2. Get paid while you learn. I worked during the day, earning a good hourly wage, gaining valuable work experience and went to school in the evening. Since the amount of tuition reimbursement was tied to grades, I worked hard to get the maximum amount.
3. Continue learning. After my AA degree I enrolled in an adult accelerated degree program on and got my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration about a week before we were transferred to a new location in Georgia.
4. Credit for life experience. My work experience counted toward my college credits. A Dale Carnegie speech course I took as professional development satisfied the public speaking requirement at full credit. Other work experience gained credit as well. I had to compile a detailed portfolio, but the time spent shortened class time and added credit hours.
5. Debt free! I was able to graduate without any student loan debt. Even better, before I left I was promoted to supervisor and my first management position.
6. It took about two years to complete my degree program, but in addition to my diploma I gained two years of work experience with the company, received several excellent performance evaluations and moved up into other positions. I now met the education requirements to apply for upper management positions within the company.
There is more than one way to reach a destination. I contributed value to the company and they paid for my education in return. Without the stress of staggering student loan debt I could enjoy my new status and expanded employment opportunities inside and outside the company.