Do I NEED To Go To College? What are my College Options?

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A young reader wants to know his financial options after high school.

Question: My parents divorced a couple years ago, and now they’re fighting about me — I graduate high school in May, and my mom wants me to go to college but my dad wants me to take a year off.

I think they’re fighting because I don’t know what I want to do. I alternate living with them, and they’re cool with me still doing that. 

I don’t have a lot of money and neither do my parents, so I don’t want to go into debt if I don’t have to. But my mom said I’m eligible for lots of federal student loans, and she’d take out a private loan if she had to.

— Oliver in California

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

Howard Dvorkin on how to get out of debt fastIf anyone needs proof that financial decisions are almost always wrapped around personal situations, this is it.

I obviously can’t speak to what’s in your heart, Oliver. But I can speak intelligently about what’s in your bank account.

If you can live rent-free with your parents and work part-time, you can quite likely attend a local community college without going into debt. I always recommend this for young people who are still figuring themselves out. Why? Because you don’t need to take out student loans, and after two years, you have an associate’s degree.

From there, you can transfer to a traditional college if you want, get a degree from that institution, and no one will really care that you spent your first two years somewhere else.

Then again, some financial experts I know think you shouldn’t have to go to college at all. Here’s my friend Steve Rhode, a.k.a. the Get Out of Debt Guy

As you can see, there’s no right or wrong answer here. There’s only responsible and irresponsible spending. If you decide to go to community college, Oliver, I urge you to apply for as many scholarships as possible. Even if you don’t win any, that alone qualifies you for the Scholarship for Aggressive Scholarship Applicants!


Have a debt question?

Email your question to and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.

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Meet the Author

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

CPA and Chairman

Dvorkin is the author of Credit Hell and Power Up and Chairman of

college savings, millennials, save money

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