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Many students go through school with an eye on a lofty goal — heading off to college for four years of study and occasional episodes of poor judgment. For some, that goal won't materialize at all. Others may get into school only to drop out before graduation. And then there is the cost — the price of a college degree has skyrocketed in recent years, and there's little expectation that will change.

Many who leave college today do so with a diploma wrapped in promissory notes, burdened with a hefty college loan debt before they even enter the workforce. It's become an economic crisis, and some prognosticators have suggested that the next economic catastrophe will be centered on student loan debt. There's a lot of talk about free college tuition from some presidential candidates, but many people are skeptical of how "free" is defined.

It's enough to make a rising senior's head swim. But here's a thought — there are options beyond a four-year degree, many of which can be quite lucrative. They'll involve training, of course, and the preparation can be difficult. But there are shortages in several fields that are so significant that employers are taking dramatic steps to fill jobs. For instance, a nursing shortage prompted Southeast Health to offer sign-on bonuses of up to $15,000 to nurses who join the hospital team.

Recently, a survey of Alabama construction firms suggests a labor shortage throughout various disciplines in the building arts.

It appears to be a buyer's market, so to speak, in which a newly minted nurse or craftsman could have an array of employment options, likely without a yoke of crippling student debt.

— The Dothan Eagle

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