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Alternatives to College

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Want to increase your earning potential? Start filling out college applications.

In 2019, the median annual salary for a full-time worker over the age of 25 was about $66,000, if they had a bachelor's degree. With only a high school diploma, it dropped to about $39,000.

But that increase in earnings doesn't come cheap.

Since 1985, the price tag on a four-year degree has more than doubled (adjusting for inflation), and in 2019, more than 50% of students reported taking on debt to fund their college education, the average amount being north of $35,000.

Paying this back can be hard enough for college graduates, but it's particularly difficult for the millions of former students who drop out before they even earn a degree.

Rather than taking on that mountain of debt, some would-be students are looking for alternatives to college degrees — and a new one from Google has the potential to be a game changer.

Google's Alternatives to College

Google recently announced plans to launch a trio of certificate programs, which it will treat as alternatives to college degrees. These programs are entirely online, take about six months to complete, and are designed and taught by Google employees.

Enrollees can choose to train for a job as a data analyst, project manager, or user experience designer. All three positions are in high demand, according to Google, and people in them earn a median salary of at least $66,000 per year.

Google doesn't specify the cost of the programs, but they're no doubt cheaper alternatives to college degrees — a similar certificate program the company launched in 2018 costs only about $300.

Some enrollees won't even have to pay that much, though — Google will be accepting 100,000 need-based scholarships for the new programs.

The company also promises to provide people who complete the programs with career support, helping them prepare for interviews and sharing their information with prospective employers.

A Unique Certificate Program

This is far from the first online certificate program, but millions of people still choose a four-year degree program over these cheaper alternatives to college.

One reason why? Employers have simply decided that some jobs require four-year degrees and won't consider prospective employees without them.

Google will treat the certificates as equivalent to a four-year degree.

That's what sets Google's career certificates program apart from others like it. The company has already said it will treat the certificates the same way it would a four-year degree when considering applicants for relevant positions.

If other companies decide to follow its lead — not outside the realm of possibility given that Google is a world leader in tech — there's no telling how many jobs that were once only accessible to people with degrees could be put within the reach of those without them.

We'd love to hear from you! If you have a comment about this article or if you have a tip for a future Freethink story, please email us at [email protected].

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