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Can one avoid student loan debt? These educational and job paths provide an alternative route.

Nobody can predict what the Supreme Court will rule on the cancellation of student loans, but for certain people, it won’t matter. They’re already moving forward towards a time when they have little to no student debt to worry about.

Some people have chosen certificate programmes as an alternative to college since they can teach people the skills they need for a career in less time and at a cheaper cost than a four-year college degree. Others have discovered nonprofits like Merit America to acquire new skills, or businesses like Multiverse to aid in the recruitment of apprentices. Without piling up a tonne of debt, apprenticeships are designed to educate students the skills they need for the workforce.

The number of apprentices the Department of Labor has been keeping track of since 2013 has doubled, reaching 437,083 last year. According to data from the National Student Clearinghouse, undergraduate college enrollment decreased nationwide by 8% between 2019 and 2022, with decreases continuing even after students resumed attending in-person classes.

The reduction is partly attributed to students assessing the advantages of attending college against the costs, according to Doug Shapiro, executive director of the National Student Clearinghouse. Students “think about what the actual cost of tuition will be,” he said, saying they’re also increasingly assessing the return on investment of different programmes and need to weigh borrowing costs against their earning ability.

“That altered my course, “said Halid Hamadi, a student of economics at Penn State University who accrued $100,000 in debt but was unable to complete his degree because he was denied a loan to pay for his final semester.

He worked a variety of jobs, including Subway, Jimmy John’s, and as a bouncer at bars and restaurants, in an effort to find a means to finish. In the end, he discovered Merit America, where he is currently employed as an integration engineer, who plans and executes a company’s computer applications.

According to the foundation’s literature, apprenticeships are effective for any programme that is skill-based and can benefit from experiential learning. “Non-trade areas including IT, healthcare, advanced manufacturing, insurance, and hospitality are seeing an increase in apprenticeships.”

The cost structure is also persuasive, particularly given how much money individuals are borrowing to pay for college. According to a Gallup survey conducted last year, 46% of parents stated they would prefer their child follow an educational path other than earning a bachelor’s degree, and more than one-third cited financial constraints as a barrier. Furthermore, only 56% of those under 30 who attended college believed the advantages exceeded the drawbacks, according to a Federal Reserve research.

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