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Now that the United States Supreme Court has ruled that Michigan can discriminate against minority students at a time when many Americans can’t afford college, it’s more important than ever for Americans to know how to educate themselves.

When talking about education, most think of public schools and colleges. However, for many, college isn’t an option.

There are many reasons this is true. Many can’t afford the tuition and related fees; their college won’t accept their application; or they are busy working and raising children and believe they don’t have the time to invest in education.

More importantly, many people don’t have the tools that are often necessary to complete an education. Their computer won’t run the newest operating system. They don’t own the software they need for their classes. They can’t afford a newer computer. As a result, the computer they do own is older and unreliable.

The solutions that follow may not be for everyone, but they represent a viable alternative to college when college is unavailable, regardless of the reason.

STEP ONE: GET THE ATTITUDE

Many people will start a new project only to give up or experience obstacles that causes them to fail. Society tells us that failing is wrong and implies that once you fail, you will never succeed. The exact opposite is true. Failure is the best preparation for success.

We all failed when we first learned to walk, talk, and even tie our shoes. Educating yourself is no different. Expect obstacles, expect some failure while you are learning to succeed. You will get there, you just have to remain dedicated to your desire to learn and you will figure out what works best for you and your situation.

Practice your path to achieve your desire.

STEP TWO: GET THE TOOLS

A computer, preferably a laptop. Laptops allow you to use your computer anywhere. Further, if you are out, many places now have free internet connections that you can take advantage of.

Many people want an education because they are poor or are unable find a livable wage job. They are often too cash-strapped to purchase the newest computer and newest mainstream software to educate themselves. However, laptops now are getting less and less expensive. Online, you can purchase a computer from a reliable store such as NewEgg or TigerDirect for less than $500.00. They will even deliver it to your home.

However, the software that usually comes on these machines may not give you what you need, so I suggest a cost effective alternative. That alternative is Linux, specifically Xubuntu.

Xubuntu is one of the many free varieties of Linux that is designed to run well on low end and older machines without sacrificing usability.

Why Linux?

Mac Computers are very popular because of the high end hardware that comes standard on every machine and because the Mac Operating System is both more secure and more powerful than Windows for many things. However, they are expensive, when compared to many alternatives, and may be out of the price range for most people.

Linux, on a bad day, is as secure as a Mac computer and will run on more types of computers than Mac OS will. More importantly, if you need help with your Linux computer, there are more sources of free help online to assist in solving problems.

Xubuntu is easy to install and has a graphic interface, so it functions similarly to both Windows and Mac OS.

With Linux, anti-virus and anti-spyware is unnecessary and most forms of Linux, including Xubuntu come with a built in firewall, that is easy to use and effective.

Also, if you need to use office documents, whether they are Word or Excel documents, LibreOffice is a free alternative that can open either kind of document and is compatible with excel Macros. LibreOffice is also updated more often than Open-office and for that reason, many have switched over.

STEP THREE: GET THE KNOWLEDGE

Twenty years ago, it was a lot more difficult to find free information on any subject. If you went to the library, there was a chance that the book or video you wanted was checked out and unavailable for weeks.

Today is a different story.

There are online options. Many public libraries now have online resources waiting to be used. If you want to learn a foreign language, some libraries provide free access to software and websites. If you need resume help, they also remain a viable option.

If you want college level knowledge, there are many free alternatives for that as well.

Edx, provides free classes that you can take online. The Open Education Consortium provides a variety of resources of free education. If you just want to read college textbooks, The College Consortium for Open Educational Resources provides free access to text books on a variety of subjects. Finally, here is a list of free college software you can access that can make your education easier.

STEP FOUR: GET A TECHNICAL INTERVIEW

It is important to know that free education will not get you a college degree. However, it does give you the knowledge to compete with those who have degrees. Yet many employers don’t understand this. Now it’s time for you to educate them. In your cover letter, explain that while you don’t have the degree, you have the knowledge and can demonstrate it in a technical interview.

Google defines a Technical Interview as:

A technical interview is a type of interview that typically features questions that are specific to the role you have applied for, brain teaser and/or numerical reasoning questions, or both types of question.

The Tech Industry is notorious for hiring people without degrees who can demonstrate knowledge to effectively do the job. Other industries can apply this as well.

You may even find you may know more about a subject than your interviewer, which will clearly demonstrate your value as an employee.

STEP FIVE: KEEP YOUR SKILLS SHARP

Continue to learn, read and watch videos relevant to your newfound knowledge. There are many free online news sources on almost every subject. Use them to keep your knowledge up to date and to see how others use their knowledge. Participate in online discussions so you can both test your knowledge and learn from others. Doing this will also allow you to meet and make friends with people all over the world you would have otherwise known about. Knowledge comes from everywhere.

Once you get your knowledge and get a job, there’s no guarantee you’ll keep it. Continuing to learn will allow you to remain valuable for a lot longer than those who don’t. Age should be no barrier.

Also, while the above provides a path, it’s not the only one, there are a lot more good resources out there… search for them.

STEP SIX: SPREAD THE WORD

Tell everyone about free online learning resources and encourage them to do the same. Even if college is out of reach for poor and minorities, this will empower and give people ways to level the playing field to compete for good paying jobs and help raise families out of poverty.

It won’t be easy… but neither is being poor.

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