One reason I decided to start writing a blog was that I loved the feeling of overcoming a huge challenge and then sharing how it was done. Today’s post exemplifies my ambition.
You may not know this, but I was home schooled as a child and did not receive any formal high school diploma ever. My schooling stopped a little too early due to unforeseen consequences of life and I was left alone, ignorant, sometime in my early teens. There are a few issues that arise from this level of ineptitude,
- Knowing that you aren’t smart enough to get the diploma is psychologically demoralizing
- Not being able to communicate concisely or speak intelligently on topics of importance was a struggle
- The job prospects for an individual without a high school diploma are pretty slim. Which relegates one to minimum wage, labor oriented jobs and then there is the temptation of organized crime since homelessness awaits one that relies solely on minimum wage
Now I don’t blame homeschooling or my parents for the educational issues I had as a youth. The plan to home school was a earnest endeavor in theory for my family. But in my case, the execution is where things fell apart. I know many that are making homeschooling work, and now that we have the internet, a high quality education is easier to obtain. So I wouldn’t rule this tactic out just yet.
Back to the story,
Somewhere in my early 20s, I had a stable income bar-tending and mowing grass on the side. So I started to deeply invest my time in figuring out how I could overcome the educational handicap of my plight. A college degree was never something I thought that I could obtain. Long story short, I started experimenting with technical IT courses at a local college because I found that I didn’t really need a college degree to be employed in areas of the IT world.
Well, somewhere in my journey I discovered a school by the name of WGU. The reason why this particular school was important to me was that I could take classes online when I got home from my second-shift job. In addition, and this is a big one, some of the IT certifications I obtained could be converted into actual college credits! When I discovered this, I felt so smart. Look at me, I have college credits! My folks would be proud.
Perhaps My Plight Wasn’t So Bad
At the restaurant I noticed a frightening trend. I was working with lots of college educated individuals who went well into debt to obtain their degree, but weren’t able to find jobs in their fields. For the first time, I felt lucky. Almost as if I dodged a bullet when I learned that student loan debt has reached the $1.2 trillion mark according to Forbes. That amount of money is larger than GDP of many countries!
I personally knew individuals that had changed their majors and had six figure debts too! I am not sure if you knew this, but an average salary for a person working at a casual dining restaurant is not that much higher than what is considered poverty in this country. So I had no clue how someone could ever pay off their six figure student loan debts. It’s kind of like trying to swim with weights on. Related: Price Of College Increasing Almost 8 Times Faster Than Wages
So what do we do?
We have already talked about how the traditional model for college is dying and Frugal U is the new wave. But the list below are the detailed steps I took to get my degree:
- I obtained all my IT technical certifications for college on my own. I worked with the university to obtain all the information on the courses. I could usually find a used study book on eBay for a fraction of the cost.
- Once I had all the certifications I could obtain outside of school, I was technically ready for enrollment in the university. But the problem I had was that I couldn’t remember any of the math I studied as a child. So I would fail the placement test. If you are in my same situation, there is a website called Khan Academy. This site is incredible. I literally started from 1st grade and went well into college courses to prep for the entry exam. It’s all here, math, economics, humanities, science and it’s free! Because of this site (and a 2-year rigorous study schedule) I was able to pass the placement test at the university. But I didn’t enroll just yet. (Related: Why do things the hard way)
- Now that I knew basic arithmetic, I used Straighter line to obtain outside college credits for the math and accounting courses. Buying these courses Ala-Cart was much cheaper than paying college tuition. Note: I worked with the admissions department at WGU prior to buying any courses at Straighter Line just to ensure that I would get the credit when I enrolled.
- I enrolled in WGU and immediately received all the credits for my effort. From there, I aggressively passed all the classes I could by testing out and averaged 18 credits per semester. As a consequence of my labor, when I enrolled I already accumulated 60 college credits.
This entire 4-step process was no cake walk. It took me roughly 5 years to conquer. Sadly, I did not keep a running tally of all the expenses of buying supplemental material for studying prior to college enrollment. But my estimation is, the cost of the bachelors degree is somewhere around $10,000. See figure 2 for a visual of the entire process.
As you can see on figure 1, the cost I paid for my degree is dramatically lower than what the average fellow pays.
Figure 1 under graduate cost of college breakdown
Figure 2 Flow to finish college
Footnote: Just so you know, I have also hacked the home buying process and paid cash for my dwelling. No mortgage whatsoever! If you would like to learn how I paid cash for my home, sign up for the mailing list here.