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Student loan debt

Alex Whitman, a graduating senior, started his job at a power plant five days after his graduation from Williamson. He had come to the school after a short stint at a four-year college.

“I knew it wasn’t for me, with all the debt,” he told Fox29.

The male-only college provides tuition and room-and-board for all three years to its students. Williamson was established in 1888 and the no-cost education is part of the school’s original mission.

Williamson’s endowment takes care of 70% of the costs, and donations make up for the rest. The three-year program is valued at around $100,000, according to the Fox story.

This is particularly appealing in a time of rampant student debt. The Education Data Initiative (EDI) reports that 20% of undergraduate degree holders have student debt, with the average federal student loan debt balance coming to $37,088.

Four-year college enrollment has decreased by 15%, according to federal data. At least part of that reason is because of the hefty student debts.

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AI protection and better pay

Fox’s reporting showed that over 200 businesses from 19 states paid “big money” to come to the Williamson Career Fair.

“I think we realized that, during the pandemic, we were putting ourselves at risk if we can’t manufacture, if we can’t build things, if we can’t do the work ourselves,” Rounds said.

He wishes that more schools would follow the Williamson model.

“This should not be unique in the country,” Rounds continued. “There should be 30 of these schools in every big city. Should have a Williamson nearby because there is a huge need for it.”

With the AI revolution upon us, trade jobs are becoming the more secure job option. A report by OpenAI discovered AI can handle at least 10% of 80% of jobs. Yet carpenters or power machinists don’t have to worry about this, for obvious reasons.

Plus, many blue-collar jobs now offer pay comparable to white-collar ones. For instance, janitors at Buc-ee’s gas station earn the same wage as some case managers.

“White-collar workers may experience a recession that blue-collar workers don’t experience,” Giacomo Santangelo, an economics professor at Fordham University, told VOA News. “We’ve gotten into this habit of saying it’s important to go to college, instead of saying it’s important to learn a skill.”


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Sabina Wex is a writer and podcast producer in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Fast Company, CBC and more.


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