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Mike Rowe on College: Don’t Rule Out Trade School

“We’re lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to educate them for jobs that don’t exist anymore,” Mike Rowe says in a new video. “Bad idea.”

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Josh Cable has 17 years of experience as a writer and editor for newspapers, B2B publications and marketing organizations. His areas of expertise include U.S. manufacturing, lean/Six Sigma and workplace safety and health.

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We expect a lot of our kids. For one thing, we expect them to figure out what they want to do for the rest of their life – at 17 or 18 – and borrow tens of thousands of dollars to fund a college education that doesn’t guarantee they’ll land the lucrative job that they’re pursuing.

TV personality Mike Rowe believes that’s an absurd notion, especially considering that there are several million openings for jobs that don’t require a four-year degree.

“My advice is don’t rule out a community college or a trade school,” Rowe says in a new video. “That’s what I did. I graduated at a community college, and it was the best thing I ever did.”

Rowe, the former host of “Dirty Jobs,” says his college education cost him about $12,500. Today, that would cost about $80,000.

For Rowe, attending a community college was an affordable way to experiment – to figure out what he was good at, and what he didn’t like. “You can’t experiment at 80 grand a year,” he says.

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“We’re looking at teens and asking them to borrow a huge amount of money, declare a major and then go down a road that they’re not going to be able to course-correct without having a huge financial calamity as a result,” Rowe adds.

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If you’re not familiar with Rowe, the TV host and pitchman is an outspoken advocate for the skilled trades. Rowe has penned letters to the last two presidents, and has testified to Congress on several occasions. His message: The only way to solve the skills gap in trades such as collision repair is to change America’s fundamental perception of the skilled trades.

Rowe laments that too many parents, teachers and guidance counselors push high schoolers into a four-year college degree instead of discussing – or at least considering – other postsecondary options such as vo-tech school or community college.

“We’re lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to educate them for jobs that don’t exist anymore,” Rowe says in the video. “Bad idea.”

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