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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Wary students seek no-debt degrees -- and no-degree jobs

Young Americans are trying to avoid student loans or find low-debt paths to good jobs, reports Nirvi Shah in USA Today.

Janika Cook dropped out of a four-year university, owing money, then dropped out of community college. She was working as a waitress, and struggling to pay her bills, when she signed up with Multiverse. The company "partners with employers that pay to recruit and train future employees or reskill existing workers," writes Shah.

Cook started apprenticing in June 2022, earning $55,000 as she learned coding languages and data analytics skills while working remotely for a Utah-based health care company. She’s done apprenticing and now makes $67,000 a year – enough to make her student loan payments. 

Shah also talked to Kathi Schronce, an out-of-work teacher and mother of six, who needed to work nights so her husband could cover child care. She took a part-time job at McDonald's and used the tuition assistance program to earn a nursing degree. Her husband, still owes $100,000 for his Indiana University law degree. He's on an income-linked payment plan and expects the loan balance to be forgiven after 10 years in a public-sector job.

Troy Chappell (left) and Deven Scoggins are training for manufacturing jobs at Nash Community College in Rocky Mount, North Carolina: Photo: Autodesk

Troy Chappell and Deven Scoggins have siblings burdened with college debt. They're working on associate degrees in advanced manufacturing at a low-cost North Carolina community college. Scholarships and grants cover tuition. Their job prospects are excellent.

Grinnell, a private liberal-arts college in Iowa, offers “no-loan” financial aid packages.


"If the overall cost is $50,000 and the family can pay $20,000, "Grinnell would work out covering the other $30,000," says administrator Brad Lindberg.

Beck Lambert is working two campus jobs and taking extra classes to finish in three years without student loans.

College graduates have "unrealistic expectations" for their first job, say small-business owners surveyed by the Freedom Economy Index. More than 62 percent say graduates expect more pay than they're worth and underestimate the work hours required; 50 percent say graduates don't understand "the difficulty of work to be performed."

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