After filling us in on the depressing new trend of basing your love life around your credit score, the Times has found recent high school graduates forgoing college to hit the oil towns of Montana and North Dakota for jobs. Comparing the towns popping up around oil and fracking fields to the gold and silver rush towns of the old West, the Times spoke to high school guidance counselors, parents and recent high school graduates about the decision to skip college for jobs that pay forty grand a year out of high school.
Unlike cities that are working at getting college-educated, debt-ridden people to move there, oil and gas towns are attracting kids that are closer to them and have no interest in college. Even the ones that don’t work for energy companies directly can find jobs building and maintaining oil wells, doing construction for all the new housing necessary for crews or even working in gas stations for $24/hour.
There’s a sense of handwringing concern running through the article, but there shouldn’t be. If these kids aren’t sure about what they want to do with their lives, why should they pick up a $100,000 debt when they can make forty or fifty thousand dollars a year without college? All someone should be doing is teaching these kids some financial literacy, since the paper spoke to one who’s used his salary to buy a flat screen TV, a dirt bike and a Silverado. Which is all very normal and teenage, don’t get us wrong. But doing this work can’t last forever, and if you put yourself on the road to debt anyway, you may as well enjoy yourself at college instead of killing yourself with 15 hour days on an oil field.
Buried in the article is also opportunity for those of you who have already gone into debt in college: the population booms of the oil towns are straining class sizes in schools, which are desperate to hire new teachers. So maybe that English degree can be less of an albatross around your neck.