I am here again to ask all of your amazing selves to help me with a dilemma I've been having and to hopefully acquire some advice! I am scheduled to go back to college in the fall at a community college here in Minnesota for a 2 year associates degree in Horticulture. I have been working at a nursery and landscape company for about 2 months now and the owner of the small company has taken me under his wing as his apprentice. I am soaking up all the knowledge of his almost 40 years of experience and he is actually the one who mentioned permaculture to me! He is teaching me how to be resourceful and to live as close to the earth as possible. I have also been reading and watching documentaries/videos about permaculture and everything to do with nature in between work. I love every second of this and am excited to go back to school. However, I am wondering if it is necessary for me to go back to school and further myself into even more debt? My dream in the not so distant future is to be living in a tiny home on a homestead with others living off of the land naturally and earth friendly. I also have a goal of working with a non-profit (possible start my own) to help educate children the importance of growing their own nutritious food and also educating them how fantastic and beautiful mother nature is! I am already roughly $70,000 in debt from my first go at college which I only received an associates degree in music entertainment. That was when I was young and I feel strongly that I was taken advantage of by a private bank and private school to take out a ridiculous loan for a very ridiculous degree. All I knew then was that I loved music and I wanted to educate myself. For that, I am now so severely in debt I will probably never have any real significant belongings of my own and unfortunately probably not any land. The repayment they want for my student loans is astronomical and I highly doubt I will ever be able to afford to pay that mistake back. Which I am slowly coming to terms with.
So back to my main question. Should I take the dive back into college? I feel strongly about my goals now moreso than I ever have before. This is what I was meant to do. Help people live healthier lives and help our planet as much as I can. I am excited to learn everything there is to know about the plant kingdom and how the earth works and I could go on after my associates degree to the state university for a bachelors degree and conservation or sustainable farming but then again, money is looming. I know I can research and research and read and watch videos and educate myself that way. As well as take a PDC (which I plan to do no matter what decision I make). I have also been offered many opportunities to travel and work on many of your amazing homesteads since joining this wonderful community. I could travel and get hands on experience for very little money which of course sounds wonderful!
I am hoping to get a bit of advice once again from all of you fantastic peoples! Any advice you may have on loans, education, or any other topic I just touched on would be very appreciated! This is a very big life decision for me and I want to make sure I do it wisely and right this time around! Thank you so much for all the help and guidance you all have given me thus far in my short time here! I appreciate more than I could ever put into words!
Borrowing money is a negative factor in a decision (you've discovered this already). You only borrow money when there's a very strong benefit to make it worth it. When it's the least-bad route to your goal. When you can't accomplish your idea in any less-painful way.
In your case, is there a better way to get there? Yes. You spent the majority of your post telling us about it. The debt is completely avoidable. There's a route to your goal that's much less bad.
In fact, you made it really clear what you think the best decision is, and it sounds like you're after validation of a decision you've already made, more than help making the decision.
So try this exercise: tell us why college is the better choice. Make that argument here and let's see if it's stronger or weaker.
CGP Gray answers this question fairly well (around the 5 minute mark of the video). Basically, going back to college might be a good idea if you will be majoring in Engineering or Pharmacy, and a bad idea if you will be majoring in American Studies, Music Studies, etc.
the next question is: has the owner of the business a degree in horticulture? do the clients/customers ask for a degree or not?
which careers will require a degree? will you want to chooses one of these careers?
would a PDC be a better investment? if needed to build a career on that...
will there be other certifications that will help and would not create more debt? there must some. i know of a certification for squarefoot gardenung that comes quite cheap. this could be a door opener for clients. once you are in a business relationship with them, you could offer other products/services...
People that make posts like this have often decided what they want to do, and now they are just waiting for other people to tell them it's okay, so here goes: It's okay for you not to go to college. You know what you want to do, you have a path to follow that will get you there. Most people take years to figure out what they want to do, and you already know. That is a huge plus. Follow your gut and continue on the path you're on.
"People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do."
As an employee of a college, I think much of what we deliver could be provided by the students themselves except some can't get it together to teach themselves or believe they need a certification of some sort to be hired by employers or taken seriously by customers. Complex subjects like calculus are an exception & an instructor can help in such cases. Also if you're taking a STEM class, you may need access to a laboratory or workshop. So how hard is what you have to study? Do you need a certification to get a job or be taken seriously in the marketplace? Can your workplace serve as your lab?
Why not do this:
1) Get a college catalog
2) List out the courses you would need for your degree or similar.
3) Get syllabi for the first courses you would take.
4) Get the textbooks and workbooks.
5) Read, take notes, outline, do problems.
6) Repeat until you fulfill the degree requirements.
That is essentially what you would do in college. Some schools will let you test to receive a competency badge. You could identify a school that gives badges & get one in your field of study after you wrap up your studies for relatively short money.
College can be very enriching. But it can also put one in a position of debt that will last for decades, which, as you know, can put a damper on one's general happiness.
If you do not need a degree for what you are doing now, or what you want to do in the next few years, don't take on further debt. I wouldn't even spend the money for a permaculture class. There is much online and in books. If things change, you can revisit your decision. Or, if they let you and it's convenient and not too pricey, take one 'most useful' class at a time.
I used to teach in a small college horticulture program and we literally had students of all ages and situations. That in itself made the classes more enriching.
Going to college is a great thing, but you have to be in the right situation to take full advantage of going. It can be a wonderful cultural, social experience, but it won't provide a high percent of people with the skills for a good job afterwards. It does give one a better understanding of the world they are living in however and that alone can be worth it.
I am very pro college because of my own experiences, ...BUT in reality, many people think the greatest asset of sending kids to college is keeping thousands and thousands of young people out of the job market for several years. And at the same time, it keeps thousands and thousands of administrators, teachers, maintenance workers, book sellers, food workers, apartment renters, and cops employed. It's a very, very big business ....and propaganda to attend is widespread, but not necessarily true. For 'them' it is win-win. For many of the students, especially those going into serious debt, perhaps less so.
I'm in the no camp also, if your current profession or the one you are aiming for isn't "requiring" you to get a degree in that field, why bother? You have proven yourself capable by your first degree of higher learning, and commitment to see it through. If you can learn what you need to know without another degree, then there is little reason to go further into debt. Unless you would qualify for a significant pay raise after obtaining a different degree, there is no benefit to burdening yourself with the increased debt. Alternately, if you would qualify for a significant jump in pay, then you need to weigh the initial cost, vs long term recoup potential before plunking down all the cash for a different degree. Good luck, you've got a difficult decision to make, but you sound as though you are going about it with very thoughtful consideration and debate.
I feel the apprenticeship is hugely more valuable than a college degree. 40 years of experience is likely to be more experience than all your college teachers put together. I would much rather learn from someone who does something successfully than a person that does not have that same track record.
You learn more in the first 6 months of most jobs than you will ever learn in 4 years of school, as long as you take it on yourself to ask questions, work hard and try to learn. If you are not self-motivated, maybe you need teachers pushing you along a path to get a degree...
If you want to become a teacher at a college, get a college degree. If you want to run a horticulture business, keep learning from your mentor. If you want to start a nonprofit, volunteer at one or figure out a way to get a job at one. You never know if you will like something until you do it.
This comes from a guy with a Bachelors of Science degree
It seems like if you want/need a piece of paper (and I speak as someone with a great respect for useful pieces of paper), this might be a way to get one and gain real experience for a lot less than an associate's degree. You'd also meet people. And being a certified Master anything just sounds cool.
The University of Minnesota extension service also offers a lot of free educational reading matter online, if you poke around a bit on their site.
You have pretty much all the advice and relevant questions you need already, so I will just add mention of an article I read recently. It has long been a selling point for college that college grads on average make more money than non-grads. This may be true, but correlation is not causation. Those who can attend college in the first place tend to be both in better financial and social circumstances and more motivated, i.e. the kind of people who would be expected to do better even if colleges didn't exist.
So unless a degree is required to be allowed to do the kind of work you want, I would say to go with the excellent track you are on now.
@Evan: "I am scheduled to go back to college in the fall at a community college here in Minnesota for a 2 year associates degree in Horticulture. "
Who's schedule is this?....Is it self-imposed strictly due to wanting to continue the career or as a means to temporarily defer student loan payment? I don't mean this in any cutting way, but it is an option that many choose even if not really the best advice. Personally, I would not advise this, especially with a $70,000.00 noose around your neck.
My advice would be first and foremost to get yourself into a situation to buy down that debt. In many instances, that would mean selling your soul and maybe even your first born to boot, but I think given your location and even point of development in your life, you may be able to keep one leg in the permie world while maximizing the buy-down of your debt. Again, just MHO, but do not add further to that debt in any way, shape, or form.
Rochester, MN is one of the wealthiest cities in the US per capita. Make that work in your favor. Either get a job that pays directly from the Mayo Clinic system, or one that indirectly takes advantage of that capital. If you are presently working in landscaping and wish to maximize your income from that venture, see if you can work yourself into higher-paying gigs of this nature that service Clinic grounds or those who benefit highly from those salaries.....homes of employees and vested interests of the medical center. Live as cheaply as possible and put as much money as you can afford towards the loan. (And don't discount doing something with your music major: A city with money will have more disposable income for arts ventures than one without, so you may be able to find a way to offer either lessons or involvement in the planning/performance of musical events that come with at least a moderate price tag.)
At the same time, learn as much as you can from your current landscape employer and keep your eyes open to the many permie-oriented establishments in the Rochester area that themselves take great advantage of the wealthy population in the that city. (Don't get me wrong, it's a two way street....the citizens get better food than they would otherwise and the permie crowd gets financially compensated to stay afloat.) One example that you may use for future reference is the Oak Center General Store (and Gardens):
Thank you for all the advice. I can not express how much it means to me and I truly appreciate all of you taking time out of your day to respond to my post.
I have decided to not go back to school and study on my own through free classes offered by colleges for botany, learning Spanish (hopefully other languages) online, and through experience by working! I am learning a great deal at my current job! My better half and I have decided to move to Asheville NC as well and there are an abundant of permaculture courses I can take! They are a bit pricey but much cheaper than universities! Thank you again, all of you, for all the priceless advice. I hope you memorial days are going fantastically!