banner james carlini - Carlini's Corner

By James Carlini

Did you know that the amount owed on college student loans is over $1 Trillion and two thirds of the graduating seniors (in 2011) owe a little over $26,000 when they walk out trying to find a job?  (Source: )

The amount owed for student loans is more than what is owed on the total amount of credit card debt.  The big difference is that you cannot declare bankruptcy in order to avoid paying back the student loans.

Many recent graduates today are serving tables at the local Red Lobster or Capital Grille.  Some say, that’s if they are lucky.  Unemployment for recent grads is high with some saying it is over 16%.  Some articles try to low-ball the number of unemployed by using Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers and when they do, you read the readers’ comments after the article saying they are WAY off.  How many are underemployed?  50%?

Young careers are stuck in the mud.

Young careers are stuck in the mud.

If one year’s tuition at a “good school” is $31K (DePaul University) to $35K (Northwestern U.) and this is WITHOUT room & board (and books & booze), a price-tag of $125K to $140K is hefty for a degree.

If they took out loans, grads could easily be in debt for $60K-$80K, so no one is looking at buying that brand-new BMW 3-series just yet.  They probably moved back home with Mom and Dad.

You cannot do much if you are making $9 an hour and have a $1,400 a month student loan payment.  Many want their student loans forgiven, but they don’t understand that someone else has to foot that bill of “loan forgiveness”.


Maybe a real alternative is to buy an 18-year old a business franchise and tell them to “run it” for four years and get real experience under their belt to understand the elements of business.

For $125K-$140K, you can buy a halfway decent franchise operation.  Some say that no bank would ever loan an eighteen year-old that type of money.  But, think about it.  The Bank of Mom and Dad does.  Plus, there ARE banks that will let an eighteen year-old sign for a student loan.

Why?  Because once they sign, they are “in debt” to the bank and they cannot weasel out of it by declaring bankruptcy.

Giving someone an opportunity to see all facets of a business from a hands-on basis is valuable experience.  Maybe blending that experience with some older workers (mentors) working alongside of them would make it even a richer experience and have more success.

This strategy may not fit everyone, but it IS a viable alternative to what was once thought to be the “universal strategy” for everyone: Go get a college degree.


Another route which many might not find appealing would be to go into the military for 2-3 years.  That is a place where you can grow up fast and actually be a lot more mature than your equivalent junior in college.

You would be surprised to see some 18-25 year-olds actually opting for that after seeing some of their friends wind up with no progress in college.  I know of a girl going into the Navy after getting her AA degree and a son of a friend who was waiting tables (and making about $40 an hour in tips) but felt there was no future in it.  He had about 3 years of college, and was 25.

He is now in the Coast Guard making good money and benefits while working in Homeland Security in Washington, DC.  He scored really high on their tests and they have given him a great opportunity.

They are sending him to finish his degree (and PAYING for it).  In a couple of years, he will be in a much better position to either get a civilian job or stay with the Coast Guard.

I thought he made the right choice in the situation he was in.  Serving a couple years in the military is good on the resume.

Another 21 year old is working part-time at a health club and also working with an artist in publishing and promoting a collection of his paintings in a book.  This is great practical experience for him and I told him that he should somehow get some type of college credit for it and go back to school.  Right now, he is learning the ups and downs of book publishing, marketing, and general business dealing with real world issues.  You don’t get that in a classroom.

What worked before in positioning for a good job doesn’t necessarily guarantee success today.  You must have skills focused on flexibility, adaptability, creativity, and technology in order to be marketable in today’s economy.

CARLINI-ISM :  College degrees are not the universal solution anymore to a good career.

Follow daily Carlini-isms at

Copyright 2013 – James Carlini



  1. Lots of people have argued that college isn’t right for everyone. I don’t see this article as bringing anything new regarding that particular question. But is the alternative proposed reasonable?

    According to the US Census, the median family net worth exclusive of home equity in 2011 was under $17K. Mom and Dad don’t have it unless they’re in the upper quintile of net worth. And if they do have it, and loan it, who’s to mentor the 18 year old business owner? And what are they supposed to do with the hole in their retirement plan if Junior fails? Hold him accountable for 6x what his college debt would have been?

  2. Jim, I am in adjunct professor at Georgia Tech. I retired from Siemens Building Technologies. From my experience, there still is a great demand for engineers. I agree with you that a general college education no longer ensures a job in today’s highly specialized, technological culture. There is a strong need for an advanced workforce with specific skill set (e.g., HVAC technicians automotive technicians, electricians, plumbers, etc.). Additionally, the military is a good training for a large percentage of high school graduates. The high school dropout rate is far too high in many parts of our country. Families are splintered and the parents do not have the ability to give the proper direction and guidance to their offspring. Jim, this is a complex, societal problem that is impacted adversely on so many fronts.

  3. One of the greatest myths of our time it that “Formal Education” leads to true success. The most successful people don’t follow this path. Self-education leads to True Success and that only comes by knowing and following your life’s purpose. It involves acknowledging that your innate gifts and talents are what are going to lead you to serve in the greatest way. True success is serving and adding value to as many lives as possible. For some that may mean an formal education for many it will not.

  4. I owe $100,000 in student loans after receiving my Masters. It is not easy at all, I currently started my own business to create a job for myself.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s