Private career colleges are expensive. Is there a better/cheaper alternative? Yes and no.
These private schools teach you the skills you need to perform a specific job or launch a small business. You can usually get the same vocational skills training for free at a community college…but it will take you longer to get your diploma if you go this route.
The question is, which way to go?
Is it simply a question of time and money? Should you go the private route if you don’t have time? Should you go the community college route if you don’t have the money? Should you go for a side job and work your way up? Is it worth it to start borrowing money? Here’s a process by which you can make the decision for yourself:
1. Determine all costs for each choice and the time it will take you to become employable in the field.
Let’s assume you want to become a nurse because you love helping others and it’s a high paying vocation. You currently work as a translator earning $30,000 a year. If you go to private school, you’ll pay $35,000 for tuition and books every year. It will take you three years of study before you’ll be qualified to work.
If you go to public school, your tuition and books will only cost you $10,000 every year. But it will take you five years to complete all your studies.
2. How much income do you give up during that time?
Remember, you currently earn $30,000 a year. If you go to nursing school, you’ll have to cut back to part-time. Your income will drop to only $10,000 a year for five years. That means it will cost you $20,000 a year in lost income per year.
3. How much more will you earn when you start working in your career?
In our example, let’s assume that a qualified RN could earn $80,000 a year – that’s $50,000 more than you currently earn.
4. Put it all together in a nice spreadsheet and decide yourself.
Scroll around the spreadsheet above. You’ll see that with the private career college, you start making money in Year 4 but it takes you until Year 7 before you’ve paid yourself back for all your tuition and reduction in earnings during the time you spent in school.
Now scroll down to the public school sheet. You can see that you’ve paid yourself back by Year 8. What you see here is that the private school doesn’t save you all that much time and money, but it is a slightly better financial move.
If your main objective is to earn as much as possible as soon as possible, the private career college is the way to go. But if going to a private career college creates additional stress (because you don’t have the money to pay for the education), maybe going the slower route works better. You might even decide that neither alternative makes sense and look for great jobs that don’t require a degree instead. Or you might look for a great second job rather than a new career.
You can add another column in this exercise to determine if it makes sense to borrow money to go to private school or not. You can also use this type of exercise to compare any two financial alternatives.
The main point I’m trying to get across is that you when you’re making a decision about private career colleges or just about any other major financial decision, don’t “feel” it out. Think it out. Work out the numbers and decide accordingly.
Have you ever gone through such an exercise and decided to do something that wasn’t intuitive?