Most people typically associate success with big paychecks and big degrees from well-known colleges and universities.
However, a traditional four-year degree doesn’t even guarantee a good job these days; the only thing it can really guarantee is a massive student loan.
Americans are increasingly moving toward alternate routes of higher education, like a vocational school, trade school, and community colleges.
According to a recent Gallup poll, two out of three Americans rank a community college education as high as a four-year program. The one group that disagreed were Americans with post-college education, who were about 10 percent more likely to value a four-year degree over a two-year program.
Traditionally, students who attend community college education are attracted by the affordable price tag, which is definitely something we’re fans of here at Frank.
“The only consistently affordable options that remain are community colleges,” says Ben Miller, senior director for post-secondary education at the Center for American Progress.
He isn’t just talking about the differences in cost of attendance, even though they are staggering (a typical 4-year degree costs $127,000, while trade schools average out at $33,000).
Post-grad salary differences matter, too. Factor in that the average bachelor’s degree holder will earn $46,900 a year while a trade school grad will earn around $36,000. While $10k might seem like a significant difference, one of those salaries has a higher likelihood of being drained by student loan payments. Not exactly the best ROI.
These days, it’s beginning to matter less and less where you attend college. What matters is earning a degree and learning a skill, which is something you definitely don’t have to go $40,000 into debt for.
Just take a look at these insanely successful and famous people who went to community colleges — maybe you’ve heard of them.
1. Tom Hanks
Despite a not-so-great high school record, Mr. Hanks was able to get his start as a student at Chabot Community College in Hayward, California. He later transferred to finish his four-year degree, but still credited Chabot with much of his current success.
“That place made me what I am today,” he told the New York Times in an op-ed.
His 2011 film “Larry Crowne” was actually inspired by his years at Chabot Community College.
2. Elizabeth Warren
Senator Warren came from a family that struggled financially, as her father was ill and unable to work. She originally attended George Washington University with a scholarship from her skills on her state champion debate team but dropped out at 19 to get married.
She later got a second chance and graduated from the University of Houston, a commuter college. Although it’s not officially a “community college,” it did only cost $50 a semester at the time. That cheaper price tag certainly didn’t hold her back from going on to be a senior United States Senator from Massachusetts.
3. George Lucas
It’s true! The iconic Star Wars creator graduated in 1967 as a film major with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, but before he earned his four-year degree, Lucas first attended Modesto Junior College.
He clearly put his education to good use, as he went on to become one of the most influential presences in the science-fiction genre of Hollywood.
4. Ross Perot, Sr.
He’s not one of the most well-known names on this list, despite boasting a net worth of $4.2 billion (according to Forbes). Unbeknownst to many, the founder of Electronic Data Systems and Perot Systems attended Texarkana Junior College before becoming a billionaire and politician. Even though his 1992 shot at the presidency was unsuccessful, he had a pretty solid backup plan.
5. Morgan Freeman
Like his fellow actors on this list, Mr. Freeman was also a former community college student. Although he never completed his degree at Los Angeles City College, he went on to be one of the most recognizable faces (and voices) in the entertainment industry. He went on to literally play God, which is about as cool as it gets.
6. Steve Jobs
Although the late Steve Jobs famously dropped out of a college in Oregon and went on to co-found Apple, he also briefly attended De Anza Community College, according to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. He studied there for two full semesters in 1970.
7. Queen Latifah
As a successful rapper, singer, actress, producer, and TV host, this woman is multi-talented. She was already semi-famous when she enrolled at Borough of Manhattan Community College.
The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter so much where you go, but what you do with your time while you’re there.
Your college experience can define you, like Tom Hanks, or could be just a jumping-off point for your inevitable brilliance, like Steve Jobs.
Pursuing higher education is a decision that can only benefit you, as long as you’re going about it in a way that makes sense for you financially. For many, a non-traditional degree can check all the right boxes and set you on your path to greatness. Hopefully, these famous people who went to community colleges can inspire you to do the same.
Don’t count out a great school just because they don’t have a famous name — your name could be famous one day, and it’s probably not going to be because of whatever school you went to. It’ll be because of who you are.