88: How to Get Pay-Boosting Skills Without Going Broke


The economy's supposed to be really good, if you look at the official numbers. According to the U.S. labor department the unemployment rate was under 4 percent in July, which is a level that a lot of people used to consider "full employment." Everybody who wants a job has one.  

Except … not really. 

The system isn't working the way it's supposed to for working people. Here's what I mean. Typically in the past, when so many people have jobs, pay goes up. I mean, how else are you going to get people to work for you if everybody has a job. You've got to pay them more.  

But that's not happening – at least not anywhere near at the level it should be. The Labor Department reported last month that if you look at median weekly earnings, and you factor in inflation, the typical worker is just treading water.  

And what about the future? Having a job and making a living are not the same thing. The cost of a four-year degree rose about 25 percent in the last decade according to the College Board, to $34,740 a year. Meanwhile student loan debt Is exploding.  

So: wages flat. Traditional schooling expensive. We haven’t even talked about the cost of raising a family if that’s your thing. What are you going to do if you’re not already in the job you want to be doing for the rest of your life? 

Today we’re going to find the smart way to navigate all this. Getting the skills for a better job or higher pay without crushing your bank account and going deep in debt.  

Joining me on the show to help you make your plan: Here with me at the Nasdaq, Laura Pappano is an education reporter who lives and breathes this stuff, writing in the New York Times, the Hechinger Report and more.  

Joining us from Denver, Rachel Carlson, cofounder and CEO of Guild Education, a company that helps employers offer education as a benefit to employees, kind of like healthcare – clients include Walmart, Lowe’s, Taco Bell and Chipotle.  

And finally, joining us from Cambridge Massachusetts, Anant Agarwal is an MIT professor and CEO of EDX, a free-to-learn platform.