Conventional wisdom states that a bachelor’s degree will buy a student $1 million over the course of a lifetime. Find the hard evidence on that, and then we’ll talk. However, to have a crack at a serious job with no prior work experience, and no volunteerism, a first-time job seeker needs a college degree, or at least a few applicable certifications. And a major in astrology or aromatherapy isn’t enough for to snag an entry-level job that serves as a stepping stone to the C suite. Many young people are turning to massive open online courses (MOOCs)and earning a handful of certifications as an alternative to the traditional college route.

A Degree Can Kick the Door Down (But not Much More)

A degree helps crack the door open, but neither a degree nor a particular course of study guarantees career success. Self-starters with solid business experience can still sometimes write their own tickets with or without a degree; however, even with a degree, an employee can no longer expect to shut off the learning valve once the job is landed. Continuing education lasts at least as long as employment, and not just for employees. Consultants have to self-educate and keep up with technology as well as advances in their chosen field. Employers expect an educated workforce.

Financing Higher Education

Students don’t have much of an opportunity to work their way through college today, thanks to easy access to student loans, which has driven up tuitions. By the time today’s graduate leaves school, he or she owes the down payment on a middle-class house, and government guaranteed loans (most of them) can’t be discharged through bankruptcy. It’s nearly impossible to finance an undergraduate degree without agreeing to indentured servitude.

The Starbucks College Achievement Plan

Students acquire a sturdy foundation on which to build through higher education. Starbucks helps their U.S.-based employees who work at least 20 hours per week get a college education through a partnership with Arizona State University. For freshman and sophomores, Starbucks reimburses partial tuition for courses taken at Arizona State University through their online program. For juniors and seniors, they fully reimburse tuition and fees as long as students remain employed at any Starbucks-owned business. ASU offers over 40 majors.

Today, a self-directed career development program is available to anyone who is willing to learn through eLearning, exploit social learning, and develop his or her own personal learning network (PLN).