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College: To attend or not

 
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Hi guys,

I am having some struggles recently, to attend college or not. I am studying but just taking classes I want to take, permaculture, botany, soil science,  and a couple landscape designing, but currently no intention of attaining a degree. Besides the permaculture certificate. If I were to get a degree it would most likely be in the environmental studies department.

Do I go out into the boonies and lean everything I want, herbal medicines, permaculture, farm designing, would it be enough?
Do I just go out in the boonies and forget about society or do I try to be part of society?

I am really torn, as I am interning in a couple of community projects in the city, specifically an urban eco village,, and I am realizing I have the desire to be part of the larger decisions, and conversations. But as I am not technically educated, gained most of my experience while working on different farms, what I say is not respected or even thought about.

Not to sound egotistic but when it comes to sustainability, I know what needs be done, for me its very simple. We tend to just over complicate everything.

Sustainability is a word over played, and lost its meaning, we have only made things "better", progressed, but you look at the process, its exactly the same as the unsustainable product. Its not us, its the factories and the corporations producing all of our fridges, washers just everything. Therefore self-sufficiency is the answer.

But going back to the education is it necessary? Do I need a certification to label my knowledge? Is experience enough?

How have any of any guys gotten about, with or without a degree?
 
pollinator
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Unless your education will pay for itself, do not pay for it. Unless that piece of equipment will pay for itself, don't buy it. Unless that animal produces more than you would get by using the resources elsewhere, don't get it.

I have a formal education that I use to pay for my on-the-job education in this stuff because I make mistakes that a 12-year old wouldn't make 100 years ago. Others who have more years left in their lives would do better as apprentices. Some would be best served by learning a trade that is in demand in traditional communities, but also can provide cash flow in the modern economy (I am thinking mechanical/smithing/stuff like that).

There is more than one way to get from place to place- just don't pay too much for it, stay flexible and out of debt. If you are going to pay for education, if you are not working HARD in your coursework, you probably could learn it on your own time at your own pace. Formal education is for the things you cannot motivate yourself to learn on your own. I think that was the value of my formal education, it meant I had to claw through things I wasn't really that interested in. It meant persistence not just aptitude. When I was in graduate school, I never bought a book and got straight A's. That was when I decided they just wanted my money and my cheap labor, and I left and got a real job. That diploma would have been pretty worthless.

There are some education threads on here, give them a read. Lots of cautionary tales that break my heart.

Best of luck going forward!

 
 
pollinator
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As someone who is considering a limited return to formal education after a decade break, and without any higher degrees, I would strongly advise that you limit your education to apprenticing with people who are succeeding at things that you would like to do. Beyond that maybe look into a university extension class in resume preparation that will help you describe your skills to a person conditioned to assessing degrees and suffixes, that might help you more confidently enter into situations and help you present yourself to the more urban wing of this sustainability culture. Also understand that the 'boonies' is a lot different than the city in more ways than you can imagine if you have spent your entire life in cities. I think of a town that boasts 30.000 residents as a city and when I do venture into the realm of actual cities I feel like an absolute alien and don't stay long. I think the feeling often goes both ways, so also consider where it is you actually do want to live, definitely give the cuts a try but there's nothing wrong with working for change from in the urban sphere, lots of opportunity and need there that many people with your mindset are totally unwilling to fulfill.
 
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Most people would agree in this day and age in America at least: college prices are unsustainable, jobs that let you afford those prices (paying loans off in future, plus surviving on what you earn) are by no means guaranteed, and debt is a crushing weight to carry.  There are also very few ways to get out of college debt without paying it back, if life takes a bad turn for you.  Most bankruptcies don't cover student loans.  


I recommend these two stories about people who paid off school debt--and just what it cost them.  The stories are inspiring, but don't kid yourself: education should not require such superhuman efforts.  Think what they could have done with a purpose and the money from their extraordinary efforts if they already knew what they wanted to do.  These are not permaculture stories, but recent stories of incredibly inventive and hardworking people who paid off debt early.

Pay Off: How One Millennial Eliminated Nearly $80,000 in Student Debt in Less Than Five Years, by Shannon Young

Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom, by Ken Ilgunas

Here is an article with less happy results.  People who have accepted they will never pay back their debt and are just hiding from it:

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/qbx7dm/talking-to-american-debt-dodgers-who-moved-to-europe-to-avoid-paying-off-their-student-loans-111

Every dollar spend on education is still a dollar you will owe someday.  Don't be fooled by slick brochure and bargain away your life.

Know why you're getting an education, and whether it's worth what it costs.  You can learn things on your own.  You can earn money other ways.  Debt is a horrible weight to carry.

I am not speaking from personal experience about college, since I've never gone.  But I see so much agony from young people this generation.  College is not a simple, carefree choice anymore--it comes with a cost people need to count.
 
pollinator
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It seems that you are attending college and pay fees. If you do so do all the examns and study everything offered and get a degree. Otherwise I would not go to college at all learn with some poeple who know what they are doing make an apprenticeship the old fashiones hard way (you think you know a lot but probably there is a lot to learn) go on a permie farm, a biodynamic one and so on. Spend ten years learning and studying books at the same time, then you start knowing something. I would not go to college, but I would finnish college if I would be more than half way through.
 
gardener
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Hi Iior-

I personally don't think a formal college education is necessary, especially if you desire to go to the boonies and practice herbal medicines, permaculture, farming etc. This can all be gained from books and working/apprenticing in the field you desire. To me, traditional college is paying a lot of money to go read books, and getting an accredited and recognized certificate upon completion. If you really want to pursue a farming/permaculture/self-sufficiency type of lifestyle, no one will be asking where you went to school. I tried to do the college thing, my father steered me in that direction, after all, the very american way to "success" is getting a degree, choosing a career, working to pay off debt and buy "fancy stuff" as a measure of ones success until I'm 65, then retire and get to do what I want. Whatever. That sort of life isn't for me. I couldn't crack college, never finished my freshman year, that was over twenty years ago. School just isn't in my heart/spirit. Having said all this I did go to, and complete, brewing school in my mid twenties, as I thought I wanted to pursue a life making beer. I made good beer but was even better at quality control, and did a lot of it, and drinking beer every day wasn't conducive to me getting a lot of work done. Needless to say, I don't drink anymore, but I do have a framed piece of paper saying I'm a brewmaster, whatever that's worth, but it's not really a "degree".

So I have gotten by without a degree, never did pursue brewing, and actually make pretty darn good money installing tile and hardwood floors. It's worked for me because I enjoy working with my hands, always have. I found a niche and I work for myself. One way to make good money without a college degree is in the trades, or with skilled labor. Plumbing, electrical work, tile, hardwood, welding, auto repair, most of which will require some sort of educational course, but not traditional college. The downside to those jobs is they're not farming, permaculture, farm design, or herbal medicine, but could allow someone to pursue those in their free time.

It's took me until my thirties to realize what I wanted to do with my life, and that's farming, or really homesteading and selling surplus to make a little money. I just want a simple life connected to nature. I've been devouring books on soil biology/chemistry, gardening, grasses/pasture, permaculture, and raising farm animals. Reading is giving me a good foundation and understanding, but there's nothing like hands on experience, the best education being learning the hard way from mistakes. I'm getting there, my wife and I purchased some land a few months ago to go do homesteading, so next year I'll be putting up my flooring hat and putting on my farming hat, learning as I go. I won't make much money, but I also don't need or desire much.
 
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No.
You will learn far more by working on existing projects, with people who know what they are doing (instead of claiming they know everything).

The theory is nice, but worthless if you don't know how to use it. And most things are so complex there is no usable theory anyway. (Unless you are in Mathematics or Physics.)

And if you do want some classical education, I would recommend reading some old books.

(I have studied physics. So I can tell you that gravity and or air pressure are to blame when the house comes down. yay!)
 
pollinator
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Really a great topic, kudos for bringing it up. The replies so far are equally as good.

lior dahan wrote:Do I just go out in the boonies and forget about society


As someone who did that almost right off the bat out of grade school, I'm not sure it was the best move - it's a tough call. I think if I had gotten some extra education, like a 1-2 year course of something, I'd have been much better off now. But then again at the time I wasn't interested much in biological/permaculturey aspects of nature.

lior dahan wrote:But as I am not technically educated, gained most of my experience while working on different farms, what I say is not respected or even thought about. Not to sound egotistic but when it comes to sustainability, I know what needs be done, for me its very simple. We tend to just over complicate everything.



I'd say your point there has been the hardest part for me with going out to the boonies, though it was the same when I was in the city and referred to as "just a landscaper". Something to keep in mind is that many of the people out there have never experienced a different point of view before. They do things a certain way because that's how it's always been done, how everyone does it or how they were taught to do it.

If you know what has to be done and how to do it, then it sounds like you want to manage your own permaculture projects. Buying your own land is the ultimate self-sufficiency answer, but it takes capital.

We have a few eco communities in various places in my province, but they are pretty main-stream and mostly obsess over carbon footprints. I've contemplated going to check a few out, but I feel I wouldn't learn very much from them to help me in regards to permaculture.

lior dahan wrote:But going back to the education is it necessary? Do I need a certification to label my knowledge? Is experience enough?



It depends on what you plan to do. Plenty of people who have degrees in non-enviromental/agricultural fields get into permaculture via buying their own land are successful at it. If you want to be part of a group that is designing eco villages though, as you say, they usually want people who have some credentials; and an environmental or equivalent degree is sometimes needed.

From my experience, people in rural areas care less about the certification and just want a good job done. When working in the cities, the focus seemed to be around warranties and certifications. "Certified Lawncare Specialist", "Certified Professional Arborist", "my new cabinet hinge is squeaking, is it covered by warranty?".

A carpenter down the road from me has no formal education, but has been doing his work for 30 years or so. He is booked a year or more in advance, charges $40/hour and his work is great. This is in a hamlet area with maybe only 20,000 people in an 80km radius.

lior dahan wrote:How have any of any guys gotten about, with or without a degree?


I took the long road so to speak, and have been working at a conventional farm for 3-4 years now. I've collected enough forms of capital though that it's beginning to pay off slightly. I borrow tractors, bobcats and other equipment from the farm to do my own permaculture projects. I have contacts now that I'm getting lots of cheap material from. I've figured out who the sustainable/ambitious type people are around here and I'm trying to create a good support system with them.

---

Tj Jefferson wrote:Formal education is for the things you cannot motivate yourself to learn on your own. I think that was the value of my formal education, it meant I had to claw through things I wasn't really that interested in. It meant persistence not just aptitude.



To piggypack off this comment, I'd say the same can be said for working at a farm to build up a strong work-ethic. Farmers are Farmers whether they are conventional or permaculture oriented. Either way you have to get up early, sometimes work in harsh weather conditions, at times of the year work extremely long days and if something breaks you have to come up with quick solutions. It's a similar situation to what a market garderner, homesteader or business person would face. It's really tough adjusting to this lifestyle, especially because if you are doing all this as an employee you may feel it's a lot of work for nothing, but it's training that will pay off. (and you make a decent wage while doing it)      

stephen lowe wrote:Also understand that the 'boonies' is a lot different than the city in more ways than you can imagine if you have spent your entire life in cities. I think of a town that boasts 30.000 residents as a city and when I do venture into the realm of actual cities I feel like an absolute alien and don't stay long.


Same here. The concrete jungles don't resonate well with me.
 
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Well if no one else is going to give the counterpoint...

I would agree with the general consensus that you only need a piece of paper if you need a piece of paper- ie for a specific career option. That being said, there are so many things that university offers a young person that they will not access through apprenticeships.

For one, access to the research and evidence to counterpose the less formalized and often incorrect information in most alternative/unaccredited institutions. If you want to learn to work wood, someone can show you exactly what works. If you want to start curing cancer with food or rehabilitating ecosystems, things are a little less clear and (typically) a lot more likely to be full of 'miracles', panaceas and snake oil.

For another, there are many things outside of just learning how to make things sustainable that are very helpful if not vital to the kind of life you seem to want to live. Finance, basic business law, communication, management, basic chemistry, soil science, technical writing. If you propose to someone designing their property, you'll get a lot farther with a company name, legitimate contract and service agreement, letterhead, etc. And not being slapped with an audit for the way you filed taxes on your earnings is a plus. Where I'm at, the ability to speak Spanish is a game changer, both in terms of making business connections and hiring reliable, trustworthy and hard working employees for the kind of work you're also describing.

80% of business enterprises fail in the first 18 months, and for most of them the only goal is to make money at all costs. 90% of intentional/eco community efforts fail. Starting or even continuing these projects that are 'alternative' to the status quo is harder, not easier. There's more roadblocks, more red tape, a smaller initial market and more difficulty in market penetration. Operating costs are much higher when you don't pollute, don't screw people over and don't cut corners to sell a crap product as a quality one, especially right out of the gate. You can learn the skills to meet these challenges on your own through rigorous discipline and a good deal of searching and independent study. Realistically, this doesn't ever seem to happen.

Finally, I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but I wouldn't be so certain you know what needs to be done when it comes to sustainability. I say that not because of who you are, but based on the realities of the situation: very few if any people can say that they know the best solution for people, planet and the future in any situation and be correct. There isn't a clear and distinct answer for what is the best course of action in every situation. In truth, there are very few things we have developed that we know- verifiably, with the ability to measure and replicate results- to be sustainable ecologically, economically and environmentally. Permaculture, appropriate technology, sustainability, these things are all still in their nascence, learning to crawl and developing their language. They're all attempting to develop in ways that are off the beaten path of intellectual endeavor as well, which slows things down considerably- their empirical results aren't achieved through isolating variables, their funding isn't from huge grants or bigger corporate interest, their goals lie beyond tiny, individuated nuggets of fact. Even then, I doubt there will ever come a time in which permacultural practices don't require the caveat 'but experiment and see what works for you in your area'.

College for me (5 years ago) was as much about learning who I was and what I believed as it was about the material I was learning. I did not pursue a degree for professional certification or a given career, and though the cost was exorbitant, I'm glad I did it. I developed my reasoning abilities, my ability to entertain concepts with a degree of impartiality; to recognize my own inherent bias in any situation; to critically engage a text be it a published study or a logical argument; to challenge my presuppositions about what is real, what is truthful, what is nature/natural, and what role humans play in the biosphere. I learned a lot of history, philosophy, logic, biology, and ecology, and a little bit of linguistics, chemistry, botany, anthropology, sociology, psychology, economics, business and law.

If you do choose to go to university: don't go for the name of the school, go for the quality of the departments in which you will study. Look into each professor before you make the commitment to pay for and attend their class. Study the material, and make your focus on learning instead of grades. TAKE NOTES- if you're taking courses that actually matter to you, you will be happy to have them later when that information is relevant. If the professor has a specialization that you find interesting, utilize them. Go to office hours and ask them questions that occurred to you in the class. In short, get your money's worth.
 
pollinator
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I'll be a contrarian as well.

If you think education is expensive, what is the cost of ignorance?  There is clearly a tremendous value in apprenticing under people who have valuable life experience.  But a formal degree is recognized as a kind of currency in so many ways beyond just the job you can earn using it.  If your only reference point for ROI is what kind of job you can get from it, you have too small a view of what a college degree is all about.

Particularly if you are young, get your degree now and consider a graduate degree as well.  I've got 3 degrees and use the knowledge I gained from them every day of my life.  College made me a critical thinker, a lover of knowledge, provided me with research skills, provided me with credibility in a much wider circle of society, and broadened my scope of appreciation for the arts, literature, science, social science . . . all the arts and sciences.  

There are a couple of myths or worldview perceptions common within the greater homesteading and permaculture communities.  First, that people need to be completely autonomous and self-sufficient.  This topic has been discussed in these forums for years.  At the end of the day, even with a well-established permaculture homestead that provides 99% of our calories, you still are a part of the greater global economy and always will be.  Education is a currency in the global economy, as signified by higher education degrees earned.  Having a degree is one more tool in your greater toolbox, just as valuable or more so than any other in your permaculture toolbox.

A second myth is that the world is going to end soon and we'll all be out there on our little piece of land fighting off the hungry zombie hoards, as the global economy crashes around us and anarchy reigns.  People have been saying this forever.  When I was in college, I came under the influence of a man who passionately tried to convince me to drop out now and prepare myself for the coming global economic collapse.  He was collecting pure pre-1982 copper pennies, storing freeze-dried food in his larder, and buying guns and ammo.  The world isn't going to end.  The world is changing slowly and things will continue to move toward food scarcity, but you still need to have the skills and education to participate in the greater global economy, even if you are out on a farmstead somewhere in rural America.  I'm so glad that I not only finished my degree, but I returned a couple years later to start grad school.

Get your degree  AND get as much practical experience as you can.  BOTH.  And if you are smart, get a graduate degree as well and be a leader in the permaculture movement.
 
pollinator
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Marco Banks wrote:I'll be a contrarian as well.
If you think education is expensive, what is the cost of ignorance?  There is clearly a tremendous value in apprenticing under people who have valuable life experience.  But a formal degree is recognized as a kind of currency in so many ways beyond just the job you can earn using it.  If your only reference point for ROI is what kind of job you can get from it, you have too small a view of what a college degree is all about.



I agree with this. I went to school for a long time and much of what it taught me was not what I would have expected, and that's what made it valuable. I am completely different than I would have been.

I would like to add a complicating factor concerning cost, too. To me, speaking about education in general as being too expensive is too broad. There is a world of difference between state universities and private universities and colleges. Private universities and colleges are very expensive, generally, although there are exceptions (the most obvious is Berea College, which gives a massive automatic scholarship to everyone it admits).

State universities are, for residents, as a rule far cheaper. The irony is that the teachers may be better researchers; whether or not that equals better teachers is another issue. You need more personal focus to get the most out of a big school, because it's easy to blend into the crowd. But if you're self-driven, you can learn a ton for much less than you would at a private institution. Each has its advantages, but if cost is an issue, public is the way to go. If you're interested and do well, you can even parlay that into graduate study that you fund by being a teaching assistant or something. It's not glamorous, but it's education.

A final thought: If you want to live in the boonies and you're thinking about pieces of paper that make it possible to have a good living, you might also think about the skilled trades. They don't get enough respect in the US. A good electrician, for instance, who is reliable and easy for customers to deal with can make very good money. Like six figures good money. (I know one of these.) Those skills are transferable around the US and might make for a good career as solar specialist or something. This is just one thought -- there are possibilities.
 
gardener
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If you do choose college, consider taking tests, instead of sitting in a classroom all day. Below Are excerpts from an article datedin 2012 describing CLEP-ing out of courses.


“How Degree-By-Examination WorksStudents have been conditioned to think courses are the only way to complete college, but this is a fallacy. Most colleges also permit you to earn credit via subject exams from organizations like CLEP (College Level Examination Program) and DSST (DANTES Subject S
tandardized Tests). CLEP exams are administered by College Board, the same organization responsible for the SATs. DSST was formerly offered only to the U.S. military, but later became available to civilians as well.
The idea behind these exams was that if you had already mastered English or Psychology or Accounting (as many professionals had) you could take a three-hour subject exam instead of a four-month class. And it would count toward your degree as normal.
At just $80-$100 apiece, these subject exams offer the highest ROI in all of higher education. Here’s a cost-per-credit analysis I assembled for my blog readers….”

“…What’s The Catch? In fact, there is one.
Most schools discourage this with strict residency requirements mandating you earn a specified number of credits on campus (instead of transferring them in). Out of a 120-credit bachelor’s degree, you may only be allowed to earn 30 or 40 via examination. Still a hefty savings… but not the ultimate education hack.
If you want to go the distance, a tiny handful of remote-learning schools (such as Excelsior College) have no residency requirement at all. Here, you can enroll in a degree program and complete it solely via test-taking. No, schools like Excelsior aren’t famous—but they are legitimate and regionally accredited. And effectiveness beats ego every time.
In addition to the huge savings, the degree-by-examination process is totally self-managed. You study for the exams you want to take and take them when you feel ready. If you fail an exam, you can take it again in 3-6 months and take others in the meantime. No guessing games or waiting for the school to offer the subjects you need.”

Article here: https://www.brazen.com/blog/archive/college/test-out-of-college-graduate-in-1-year-with-degree-by-examination/


And a site that claims to help you succeed in doing this. https://www.doityourselfdegree.com/what-we-do/


I knew someone who was doing this, his progress was astounding. I do not know if he was using this organization.


I wish you good fortune in what ever path you choose.
 
pollinator
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I loved college, much more so than jobs. Looking back, I wish I had learned some science. I love soil science and microbiology.

But I'm also an autodidact, and dislike paying for knowledge.

I would say that college is a great idea, if you can manage it without loans, or at least much loans. My son is in graduate school, a Masters in Applied Ethics, and he will graduate with no loans, either from his undergraduate degree or his Masters. The biggest savior for the undergraduate degree was my poverty, but for the graduate degree, it just takes some shopping around. It's always good to be open to different options.

Good luck to you, whatever you choose.
 
pollinator
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Some of this echos what's been offered already,----some will sound a bit cynical, but may make some sense in the long run.   My observation is that the current standard undergraduate biology program at a decent college will give you the nuts and bolts background to a lot of what is discussed on the forums regarding biotic/abiotic interactions, so find a "best deal" institution (low tuition X easy access to odd jobs while schooling....avoid loans as much as you can) that might get you this degree and knowledge base.  

Then get a Master's degree in clinical psychology.  By the time you are ready for that program, you might have developed the concept of "the ecology of the mind" which really is not too different than the "ecology of the biosphere".   The cynical part:  We are about to need knowledgeable, clinical psychological practitioners on an unprecedented scale.  Your employability from urban to rural communities will almost be unparalleled and will likely be underwritten in some way by the government.  However, by approaching your patients/clients from a Permie (sustainability) perspective, you will not only learn an immense amount about your own inner "eco-psychology", but you will be able to give those you assist a perspective on living that they will get from few others with the same Master's degree.  Just an additional plug for the fact that sustainability is as much about sustaining inner mental/emotional resources as it is about the balance of the physical resources of the planet and universe;  on a population scale, if the former is out of whack, the latter will probably follow suit.
 
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Hello lior

This is serious, this is your life, a specific goal is needed.
My impression from your post is that you want people in authority to consider and respect your input.
Accomplished people are the ones whose input is sought and respected.
For many people, the first accomplishment of note is earning a college degree or a vocational certification. This provides a base from which to accomplish more things and they become an authority in their own right.
Some people by force of will and by focusing on something that others haven't been successful at or even thought of, and with keen observation and hard work, become accomplished ( a certain promiscuous pollinator comes to mind).
There will always be people who are smarter than you, but never let anybody out work you. Opportunities will come and you will reach your goals.

As an aside; I like the term sustainable. We refer to our farm/business as a sustainable enterprise. All of our animals are produced on site year-round. No herbicides, pesticides, inorganic fertilizer, or electricity are used on our farm. We use a fuel efficient station wagon for hauling. The collected manure is composted and the effluent water is used for irrigation. We strive to purchase supplies and services locally. We contribute 10% of gross sales to non-profits, we have no debt, and have never taken any public funds for production or research.

Steve
 
master steward
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Steve Mendez wrote:Some people by force of will and by focusing on something that others haven't been successful at or even thought of, and with keen observation and hard work, become accomplished ( a certain promiscuous pollinator comes to mind).



I have exactly zero formal education in biology, botany, farming, genetics, etc... A paper was published a couple weeks ago in Journal of Peasant Studies, in which I was called an "Organic Intellectual". That pleases me a lot! It recognizes the informal networks of knowledge and understanding which are practiced by me and my tribe. I love what I learn from my interns, students, and collaborators... When was the last time you heard a college professor say that?

At the farmer's market one day, a snooty lady asked me, "What are your credentials to be a farmer?", I spread my arms wide to encompass two tables worth of beautiful vegetables, and told her, "My resume is spread out on the table before you." LOL! That was very empowering for me, Resume? Degree? I don't need them... Taste my stuff. I guarantee that it will taste better than anything you have ever purchased from a store, or I will refund your money!

For what it's worth, I have a BA degree in chemistry. (Harder than a BS). I worked as a chemist for 20 years. College taught me to be a good little factory worker, but left me unprepared to be a human being. I am delighted that the things that were marked wrong on my college papers are now at the core of how I organize my writing style and approach to life... It might have taken me decades to decide to trust myself more than I trust "authority figures", but it finally happened, and has made all the difference in my life.

I discouraged my children from attending college. I highly recommend trade schools, internships, or just plain old getting a job in a field of interest.


 
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I have attended and subsequently dropped out of 5 colleges. The only way not having a degree impacts me is that I am a production technician instead of an engineer. I make as much as the lower few tiers of engineers, and they all ask me for advice. If I had an engineering degree, I would be much more employable (but only as an expensive engineer) and make 120k instead of 70k, but I wouldn't be any smarter or more content. I recommend getting an education and a document that verifies that you did it. That could be (from most expensive and least useful to least expensive and most useful) a college degree, a trade school plus apprenticeship certificate, or an honorable discharge from the military.
 
gardener
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I went to college for a year.  Then I did a lot of low paying jobs.  Then I traveled a bit by bicycle.  Then I did some slightly higher paying jobs.  Then I did an extensive bike/hike/wwoof tour.

 I could have done almost anything scholastically (my law teacher wanted me to go to law school, my drafting teacher thought I could be an architect, my physics teacher thought I could be an engineer) , but my problem was that I did not know what I wanted to do, and so.... I didn't do anything.  

In your case, you know what you want to learn.  Can you learn it without the university college system?  I would say, that it is likely.  And if so, then do it.  There is a good chance that almost everything that you want to learn, you can learn for free, or at the minimum of expense, on farms and communities that would love to have a person who is passionate about learning while helping them out.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that if you are passionate about learning, and know what you want to learn, and are very focused and happy to be in school, then it is VERY likely that you can excel at what you are choosing to do, and as such, it is likely then that you will be able to get scholarships to pay for your education.  That eliminates a lot of the hassle associated with loans and debt.  A friend of mine got a full scholarship to Harvard Law.  So if you want to go this route, you can, and it doesn't have to cost you a fortune.    

I know that I could have gone that route, but I failed to focus my scattered brain enough to figure out what it was I wanted to be when I grew up.  If there had been a good career counselor at my disposal coming out of high school, I might have gone one of a dozen possible scholastic routes.

Now at nearly 50, I'm working a decently paying job to pay for my project in permaculture----> something that I wanted to do 23 years ago, but did not get my focus on until 5 years ago.

One thing that I got out of life was a wealth of experience in a diversity of occupations, and with a good cross section of co-workers.

One thing that I wished that I had done is go to trade school.  When I was growing up the trades held no glamor.  If you went to college or university, then you were going to be somebody. LOL. Well, I'll tell you, when I was working as a chef it was shocking how many people working in the restaurant or in similar lower paying jobs, had university degrees but could not find work in their field.  Friends of mine, who went to trade schools, were making three times our earnings, but had a solid trade, in carpentry, or welding, or whatever.    

Get your focus.  Meditate on it.  Figure out what you want.  I mean what you really really want.  Focus on that.  Figure out the most effective way of getting there.    

 
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lior dahan wrote:Hi guys,

"I am having some struggles recently, to attend college or not. I am studying but just taking classes I want to take, permaculture, botany, soil science,  and a couple landscape designing, but currently no intention of attaining a degree. Besides the permaculture certificate. If I were to get a degree it would most likely be in the environmental studies department. "

The problem with college is the same as the 'ship of state", there is no compass in the wheel house: you must bring your own. Before you can make a good decision you must get some perspective. Work or internship is a good place to start. Every university class is a tool of some kind but from inside you cannot tell which ones are useful or valuable to you, and neither can anyone "inside". You can get insight from elders, leaders and employers on the 'outside' but there is nothing like working on a project to tell you what tools you actually need.

 
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I personally think you are on the right track. Taking courses that interest you. If you have a passion go in that direction. I had some office jobs, truck driving, even a manager trainee at a Very large Mexican food franchise! Getting a job as construction laborer. I eventually found my calling (passion) as a carpenter and later as a project manager when hard physical labor started taking its toll. Today, many people graduating seem to have little practical experience and look for help from those that have. You are gaining that practical experience and soon enough those type of people that ignore you now will be the ones asking for advice.

You may be ready right now to start your own business if independence is one of your priorities. For me getting a job as project manager with no degree went back to courses in bookkeeping and finances that I had taken years earlier. I took those courses only to help me understand how money works. Little did I know at the time how they would shape my life down the road. I took courses only at community college and unaccredited community learning centers.

Sounds like right now you have skillsets that you can earn a living from. Whether as an urban planner designing backyard vegetable gardens for the wealthy or the not wealthy. Courses at community learning centers are always looking for teachers, whether how to create gardens or raising backyard chickens or? These teaching positions do pay, though not much but will add to your resume. I hope I'm not being too presumptive in what direction you want to go. There will always be mistakes made and I always thought that things were not moving fast enough for me to achieve my ultimate goals. I have still not achieved my ultimate goal and am still working towards it. But I have acreage and a homestead that will always be a work in progress.

Good luck to you!
 
Steve Mendez
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What ever happened to lior dahan? This person asked for advice on a subject that may be relevant to quite a few people. Some Permies responded with well considered and sincere replies/advice. Lior may have ditched out but I think some others may have benefited from the experiences outlined in all of the earnest well meaning answers. I think this may happen quite a lot, someone asks for advice and is never heard from again but others with similar questions may get the answers and the direction they need.
 
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My brother in law went back to get his masters in chemistry. He can't get a job because they're all going to people with PhD's. I'm for education. I think it's great if you can pay cash for it. I also think at this point in time it is pointless. They won't hire you if you don't have a degree but at the same time you can have a masters in chemistry and still be skipped over for people higher than that (whom, by the way, my husband, who was hired with only a bachelors 10 years ago, was making double the amount of all those PhD's he hired while working as the manager).

So perhaps take a class here or there but if you don't want a 9-5 job there is no point in getting a 9-5 education.
 
gardener
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I don't recall who made/had the list, but it was a list of "jobs that earn over $50k/year with no college degree". Maybe Early Retirement Extreme or Mr. Money Mustache? If a person is willing to go to a trade school, there are quite a few jobs out there which pay well after just a year at a low cost school. My first time through college I got a degree which I used for a few years, but it was more an interest academically and not something I enjoyed so much out in the work force. So the second degree I pursued once I knew I was more interested in that field, which fortunately was also in demand. My favorite subjects and cstrong points prior to college were always math and physics, in my time machine scenario I would go back and pursue an engineering degree.

It can be a tough fit to find a career you enjoy that is also in enough demand to make a living doing it, especially as a kid when you might not have any idea what's available. It would help if aptitude tests and highschool education were tied together in a way to explore a child's interests in a variety of fields.
 
lior dahan
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Hi guys,

Honestly I had forget I had written this post, thank you Steve Mendez for replying after all this time, I am glad it brought me back here. Much less that it was only a year ago that I was having this dilemma and just want to say thank you for all your posts, it was great to hear all the different perspectives and experiences.

If it matters at all, I decided to obtain an AS in environmental horticulture at my local community college, and I am now just about done, and will have a paper that says I have a degree by the end of next year, something I thought I would never have. It has taken me these last few quarters to really appreciate it though, for most of the beginning I was questioning myself and the direction I decided to go. Its turned out to be a good idea, even though it is not exactly what I wanted,  I learned a lot.

To give some prospective I live in the bay area, probably one of the few places you can make a living as a gardener, I now call my self a fine gardener, (not sure if I deserve the title yet), that focuses on edibles and mostly CA natives, have a few clients, and know how to organize myself and the clients I have.

Thanks again for all your input!
 
Marco Banks
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Good for you Lior!

You've worked hard and no one will ever be able to take that degree from you.  There are a lot of great reasons to consider going forward and completing a BA or BS, not the least of which are earning power, credibility within the industry, and the self-pride that comes with accomplishing a goal like that.

I know that there are voices on this forum who would advise against it, and I respect them.  Yet from my perspective as one who heard almost 40 years ago, "You don't need a degree", and now as someone approaching 60 and looking at all the doors that were opened for me because of my education, I believe more strongly in this than I ever have my entire life.  Education AND experience.  Get your formal degree and credentials AND get the kind of real-life hands-one internships and mentorship that will set you apart.  The world only grows more and more stratified by those who have earned their degree and those who haven't.  You want to be in that former group, not the later.

Best of luck going forward.
 
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elle sagenev wrote:My brother in law went back to get his masters in chemistry. He can't get a job because they're all going to people with PhD's. I'm for education. I think it's great if you can pay cash for it. I also think at this point in time it is pointless. They won't hire you if you don't have a degree but at the same time you can have a masters in chemistry and still be skipped over for people higher than that (whom, by the way, my husband, who was hired with only a bachelors 10 years ago, was making double the amount of all those PhD's he hired while working as the manager).


Unfortunately, a masters degree in chemistry is seen as a bit of a booby prize for those who fail out of a PhD program. I'm not saying that's the case in your brother in law's situation, but employers will wonder he didn't stick around for another 1-3 years and get the doctorate.

As some consolation, I can almost guarantee that the PhDs are also griping about how they are getting passed over for people who went on to do a post-doc.
 
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I think its a waste of money today. They just said on the radio that 78% of people do not use their college degree in their current jobs. 3 out of 4 people is a lot of people with regret.

Today, the high paying jobs are in the blue collar sector. There was a town in Maine that lost its plumber and the town got together and put up $7000 for a sign on bonus, not to mention, if the town is that hard up for a plumber, the hourly rate can be pretty darn high.

I was a welder, and when I retired I was could easily make over $100,000 a year. My normal hourly rate was $32 per hour, and I was working for a shipyard and NOT self employed. With overtime I was making over a dollar a minute, and on Holiday's it just got downright stupid how much money I was making. It was hard on my body, but I also retired at age 42 years old.

I had teachers in high school that are still working, and tried to convince me I should go to college. They are still working, and I am not. But welding and most blue collar jobs are skill-based, not based upon education. And it does not matter how much money you make; it is how cheap you live. A Dr that makes 1.5 million a year and spends 1.6 million on his lifestyle is still broke, he is just a broke guy with a doctorate degree.
 
elle sagenev
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John Wolfram wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:My brother in law went back to get his masters in chemistry. He can't get a job because they're all going to people with PhD's. I'm for education. I think it's great if you can pay cash for it. I also think at this point in time it is pointless. They won't hire you if you don't have a degree but at the same time you can have a masters in chemistry and still be skipped over for people higher than that (whom, by the way, my husband, who was hired with only a bachelors 10 years ago, was making double the amount of all those PhD's he hired while working as the manager).


Unfortunately, a masters degree in chemistry is seen as a bit of a booby prize for those who fail out of a PhD program. I'm not saying that's the case in your brother in law's situation, but employers will wonder he didn't stick around for another 1-3 years and get the doctorate.

As some consolation, I can almost guarantee that the PhDs are also griping about how they are getting passed over for people who went on to do a post-doc.



He didn't want to do school any longer from what I understand. He just wanted a job in a lab doing chemistry. The jobs in my area DO NOT require PhD's. Like I said, my hubs got one with a bachelors 10 years ago. They're very basic lab jobs here. The problem being that our state pays more than most for these lab jobs so when they open up people from around the country (and even people from outside the US) apply for them. Then, when you have the option of hiring a PhD for the same price as someone with a bachelors...why not hire the PhD aye.

And this gets people stuck in a rut getting degrees for no real purpose other than to look better on paper.
 
elle sagenev
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Travis Johnson wrote:
I had teachers in high school that are still working, and tried to convince me I should go to college. They are still working, and I am not. But welding and most blue collar jobs are skill-based, not based upon education. And it does not matter how much money you make; it is how cheap you live. A Dr that makes 1.5 million a year and spends 1.6 million on his lifestyle is still broke, he is just a broke guy with a doctorate degree.



Just wanting to point out that some people really enjoy what they do. Lawyers often work far longer than they have to. We had a federal judge here still sitting on the bench at almost 90. Everyone always said the day he retired is the day he died. You can be sure he didn't HAVE to work but he loved it. It was fuel for his soul.

Otherwise I agree with you. My husband and I are debt free savers and we are planning to not need to work at age 50. We may work, because I also love my job, but probably won't need to.
 
Steve Mendez
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Way to go lior. You set some goals.
You are building cred and gaining knowledge and skills.
Your second post shows someone who has gotten serious about earning respect and becoming useful to yourself and to others.
 
 
Travis Johnson
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elle sagenev wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote:
I had teachers in high school that are still working, and tried to convince me I should go to college. They are still working, and I am not. But welding and most blue collar jobs are skill-based, not based upon education. And it does not matter how much money you make; it is how cheap you live. A Dr that makes 1.5 million a year and spends 1.6 million on his lifestyle is still broke, he is just a broke guy with a doctorate degree.



Just wanting to point out that some people really enjoy what they do. Lawyers often work far longer than they have to. We had a federal judge here still sitting on the bench at almost 90. Everyone always said the day he retired is the day he died. You can be sure he didn't HAVE to work but he loved it. It was fuel for his soul.

Otherwise I agree with you. My husband and I are debt free savers and we are planning to not need to work at age 50. We may work, because I also love my job, but probably won't need to.




I might actually go out and get a job.

Jobs take on a whole new meaning when you are working for something, and not just payments. I'll gladly work for 6 months to get a new tractor, but I sure the heck am not going to work and make payments for 6 years for a tractor.

Then there is insurance. Without payments, you do not need to put inurance or stuff. By not having a mortgage, I have saved enough money by NOT having homeowners insurance to build a brand new house. IF my houses never get destroyed, then I get to keep my money. If one of them does, I have to spend what I have saved in insurance premiums and build a new home. It is a roll of the dice, but if I do not have to replace a home because nothing happens I GET TO KEEP THE MONEY and not some insurance company. (3 Houses, at $1400 per year, for $4200 a year for 10 years is $42000).

I have started calling "Interest Rates" "Stupid Rates", because all it means is, you will be paying 100% of what you owe back, and then whatever the Interest/Stupid Rate is, that amount of your own money. I have a hard time making enough of my own money, I am not going to give a stupid percentage of it back.



 
pioneer
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lior dahan wrote:Hi guys,

Honestly I had forget I had written this post, thank you Steve Mendez for replying after all this time, I am glad it brought me back here. Much less that it was only a year ago that I was having this dilemma and just want to say thank you for all your posts, it was great to hear all the different perspectives and experiences.

If it matters at all, I decided to obtain an AS in environmental horticulture at my local community college, and I am now just about done, and will have a paper that says I have a degree by the end of next year, something I thought I would never have. It has taken me these last few quarters to really appreciate it though, for most of the beginning I was questioning myself and the direction I decided to go. Its turned out to be a good idea, even though it is not exactly what I wanted,  I learned a lot.

To give some prospective I live in the bay area, probably one of the few places you can make a living as a gardener, I now call my self a fine gardener, (not sure if I deserve the title yet), that focuses on edibles and mostly CA natives, have a few clients, and know how to organize myself and the clients I have.

Thanks again for all your input!



If I was here last year, this would have been the advice I would have given you, exactly what you did.  Go to Community college where you do not take out loans or spend alot of money and get an associates degree.  Only transfer and spend $$ for the 4 year degree if you know that degree is the only way to get to the job you want, and that job pays enough to make the degree cost worth it or choose a different career path, and do not take out loans for it, or if it is worth it maybe a very small amount. My youngest and peers are at this college age and I have been watching how all this goes and choices different young people are making, including ways that some get their degrees.  There are many ways to go that do not require college and I see many quite successfully going that route.  For the ones who need or want college, I do see many making some smart decisions,  like going to community college while living at home, the ones who decide to transfer, many are continuing to live at home and commute to one of our local universities ( a Cal State) rather than a "dream" college where they would have to pay room and board.  Many of these young people are working part time and during summers to pay for that tuition at that Cal State or UC  they are commuting to, packing their lunches, not eating out or traveling on student loan money, so then they graduate with no or for a few very low debt.  

And I want to congratulate you on staying strong and choosing the right path for you.  I also live in the greater bay area and the pressure on the young people is enormous,  very competitive realy, ( I have been told that parents and young people give pressure like :  what colleges did you get into, why did you choose community college, couldnt you get into a 4 year, what was your SAT, etc.....  but in the end many of the ones that did what the schools and externalities are pressuring them to do end up with too much debt and no good job prospects anyways)
 
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