Author Topic: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?  (Read 4689 times)

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Offline trrway_32

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Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« on: May 21, 2018, 07:47:58 pm »
Background: I am 21, based in the US. I will try to keep this as concise as possible.

I went to college (mechanical engineering) straight out of highschool. I got few scholarships, and dropped out due to multiple factors (failed calculus, stress, depression, not really wanting to go in the first place). In hindsight, I wasn’t emotionally ready, and also made the mistake to going to an out-of-state school (higher tuition). Afterwards, I floated around, moving to a maker space, doing product design work until it dried up, and eventually working in a lab doing medical devices and neural implant research.

In my years since I left school, I realize I need to build a foundation of knowledge if I want to get better. However, I am disgusted at the cost of a college education here in the US. Ideally, I want to find a way to build that kowledge without taking on loans.

My goal:

I’m not entirely sure. I like reading research papers and learning about the latest science. I’m not sure if I want to focus on a purely technical track, or a project-management-type one. I like soft robotics and as of recent bioengineering

My options:

Apply for opportunities like the Theil Fellowship
Move back home and plow through community college (save money on rent, etc.)
Move back home and go to an in-state school.
Continue my path of doing jobs/internships until my background knowledge slowly builds up.

My questions:

1. How can I obtain knowledge, degree or no degree, for less than 40k? By knowledge I mean competency in subjects required for engineering (math, basic chemsitry, physics).
2. What other scholarships/fellowships/opportunities do you recommend I look into? I tried applying to the Dyson Institute, but didn’t get in.
3. Should I jump back into university now, or continue exploring until I’m absolutely certain of the track I want to pursue?
 

Offline BillB

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2018, 08:10:41 pm »
Free:

https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/electrical-engineering-and-computer-science/

Regardless, you should definitely make sure you have a plan and a goal before you jump into anything.  However, do it while you're young, before life gets in the way too much.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2018, 08:57:10 pm by BillB »
 
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Online ataradov

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2018, 08:36:29 pm »
I agree, if you are looking for knowledge and not the degree, then OCW and similar programs from various Universities have plenty of information.
Alex
 
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Online james_s

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2018, 12:32:33 am »
KhanAcademy is another good one. Knowledge is more widely available than ever before.

It's unfortunate that there isn't a lower cost path to a degree, or something in between because university tuition has reached absurd levels.

I suppose you could study online to get the knowledge then blast through a community college degree. If you already know the material then it will be much easier.
 
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Offline JohnnyMalaria

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2018, 01:18:31 am »
I like reading research papers and learning about the latest science.

Outside of an academic institution or a large corporation, reading journal articles is outrageously expensive. Typically $50 - $100 per article with only the abstract to read before you buy. I subscribe to DeepDyve for about $40 per month which gives access to a very large array of journals. There's no fee to read the paper online but you have to pay to download as a PDF. When I worked in Corporate America, I was very spoiled - unlimited access to just about everything you can imagine. It's a different story now that I'm my own concern. Keeping up is harder especially if you are so old you prefer hard copies.
Tell me it can't be done and I'll do it. Or give it a damned good try.
 

Online EEVblog

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2018, 01:30:01 am »
1. How can I obtain knowledge, degree or no degree, for less than 40k? By knowledge I mean competency in subjects required for engineering (math, basic chemsitry, physics).

You can do the entire MIT engineering course for free:
https://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm
You just don't get the bit of paper at the end of it.
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2018, 01:32:05 am »
You just don't get the bit of paper at the end of it.
To be fair you also don't get your homework checked and graded. And you don't have access to people with the knowledge if you are stuck. Both things can be worked around, of course.
Alex
 

Offline TK

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2018, 01:50:57 am »
You can take lots of coursera classes for free, you just don't get the certificate but you can follow strict homework and assignment schedule.  The last time I checked MIT OCW are a collection of videos of classes, coursera is online education.  Udacity is another option.
 

Online ataradov

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2018, 01:52:38 am »
OCW publishes course work material and homework assignments as well (without answers, of course). You pretty much get everything a student get.

And they've been like this since the very beginning.
Alex
 

Offline TimNJ

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2018, 03:42:40 am »
I hate saying this, because I wish it wasn't true, but I think having a degree is ultimately very helpful for your professional career. That said, I think the importance of a degree largely depends on what kind of work you'd like to (eventually) do.

But, to spend another 3+ years in school...I see your dilemma...

If you were to attend community college, what do you think you'd study? Physics? I know community colleges near me don't have too many offerings in the engineering realm.

How about attending community college while being very diligent about developing engineering skills at home. As many people will likely agree, personal projects are huge, maybe just as important as formal education..in the eyes of employers. If you can really hone your engineering skills at home and produce meaningful projects, I think that will put you ahead of so many of the clueless new grads trying to land a job fresh out of college.

I'm 23. I graduated BSEE last year. What struck me about college, especially towards the end, was that most of my peers knew damn near NOTHING about engineering. Sure they did okay on the tests, but past that, pretty useless. I'd say that most employers, and more experienced engineers, can sense if a candidate actually knows their stuff or if they're just another shmuck with a degree.

That said, I feel that most employers will be hesitant to hire someone without any formal education altogether. There may be some more "progressive" employers willing to give you a shot, but overall, probably more limited. I think some sort of baseline education plus a strong emphasis on self-learning and personal projects will get you where you want to be. Some sort of differentiator helps too. Of course, what works for me won't necessarily work for you, but I know my Youtube channel was always a strong talking point for me during interviews.

Anyway, best of luck.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2018, 03:46:38 am by TimNJ »
 
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Online ataradov

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2018, 03:49:21 am »
That said, I feel that most employers will be hesitant to hire someone without any formal education altogether.
It would be interesting to know if it is actually the case.

I know that when I interview people, the question about their education does not even cross my mind. I'm looking for completed projects and some level passion for the field.

I had my first two jobs while I was at the university, so no degree. And by the time I was done, I had 4 years of relevant job experience, so diploma was not of any real interest to anyone.

Ditto on actual know ledge of people graduating in my group. Everyone who knew stuff going in got something useful out of it, others just got a piece of paper.
Alex
 

Offline TimNJ

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #11 on: May 22, 2018, 04:07:33 am »
That said, I feel that most employers will be hesitant to hire someone without any formal education altogether.
It would be interesting to know if it is actually the case.

Well I can't speak for all employers, of course. It's great that you don't judge candidates based on their formal education, but I'm not sure that all employers are like that. (That said, do you really want to work for a company like that anyway? Maybe, maybe not.)

I guess what I'm saying is: Having a degree can be helpful and will almost never hurt you.

But that's from my privileged perspective. I never had to be concerned about wasting time or money because my parents paid for my education in full. But to the OP, these are obviously real issues. Maybe he/she can't "just get a degree". So in that case, where is his/her time best spent?

I'm suggesting getting some sort of technical degree to help keep your options open, but focusing more on making yourself stand out, outside of the classroom.

But of course, that's only my perspective. Other people might be more in tune with this.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2018, 04:10:23 am by TimNJ »
 

Offline JohnnyMalaria

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #12 on: May 22, 2018, 04:52:07 am »
That said, I feel that most employers will be hesitant to hire someone without any formal education altogether.
It would be interesting to know if it is actually the case.

It most likely depends on the size of the company, the industry and the country. For large multinational companies I doubt you'd get beyond the resume screening without a degree. Not once in my 24 years in the pharmaceutical industry (huge employer of scientists and engineers) did I come across anyone in a salaried position without a degree. Employees without degrees were paid hourly and a lot less. Job postings were very clear about education level and minimum experience in years. It was possible to get a position that required a master's and 3 years if you had a bachelor's and, say, 7 years relevant experience. You could also get by with less experience (years) if your resume was strong enough. But never without a degree.
Tell me it can't be done and I'll do it. Or give it a damned good try.
 

Offline IanB

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2018, 05:02:27 am »
I always think it's quite strange that high school education is supposed to be available free to every child, but further education on leaving high school is suddenly a really expensive, for-profit enterprise.

I'm not very familiar with the system in the USA, but from what I've heard the most economical approach is community college to get foundation credits and then transfer to an in-state college to complete a bachelor's degree. I don't believe it is worth paying a lot for that formal qualification. (Put another way I'm sure it's great to go to MIT, but I'm not sure it's good value for money.) Get the piece of paper to satisfy HR departments and then teach yourself after that. After a while the degree doesn't matter any more and access to jobs depends on experience and demonstrated ability. Successful people undergo a process of lifelong learning, using every resource available to further their understanding. With today's internet access to learning resources has never been greater.
I'm not an EE--what am I doing here?
 

Offline CatalinaWOW

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #14 on: May 22, 2018, 05:10:48 am »
You can learn all you want outside of a school environment.  $40K worth of textbooks contain a huge amount of knowledge, and if you are diligent you can go through and make it yours.  If you purchase used and utilize library resources you could get there for far under $40K.  You can get reading lists just be checking what various universities are using in their texts or several people here can provide good lists.  If you go this route, don't focus on just your interest fields, look at the university curricula and at least try to understand why they choose the courses they do.

This isn't an easy path, but depending on your personality and habits it might be easier than college.

But, as others have pointed out you end up lacking two things - practical experience and certification.  Practical experience can be achieved through home projects, but depending on the specific subject you pursue the lab equipment and supplies can be very expensive.  Setting up your own semiconductor lab is possible but not for the faint of heart.  The certification can only be remedied by school, or possibly by getting a PE license.  At least once upon a time and in some states by passing the appropriate tests and showing work experience under a registered engineer you did not need a degree.  This may not be possible any longer, it was starting to slip away the last time I looked so you will need to check before pursuing this approach.  I also don't know if HR departments will accept a non-degree PE.

Another thing to look into is low cost schools.  While there is certain benefit from some prestige schools (Stanford, Purdue, CalTech and the like depending on field of specialization), for most purposes the worst accredited school is as good as almost all the rest.  Find the state with the lowest tuition and move there long enough to establish residency.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2018, 02:54:20 pm by CatalinaWOW »
 
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Offline TK

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #15 on: May 22, 2018, 01:23:30 pm »
It most likely depends on the size of the company, the industry and the country. For large multinational companies I doubt you'd get beyond the resume screening without a degree.
One exception is software engineering, if you are a natural born hacker, you can get hired even without a High School degree
 

Online EEVblog

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #16 on: May 22, 2018, 01:39:42 pm »
That said, I feel that most employers will be hesitant to hire someone without any formal education altogether. There may be some more "progressive" employers willing to give you a shot, but overall, probably more limited.

Come to Australia and it's completely different. The only ones who really care about qualifications are regulated industry (medical for example), and government departments. Most in the electronics industry don't care much. Can you do the job, and do we like you are the only questions asked. Here your qualification go in a footnote at the bottom of your resume.
 

Offline andyturk

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #17 on: May 22, 2018, 01:43:38 pm »
I know that when I interview people, the question about their education does not even cross my mind. I'm looking for completed projects and some level passion for the field.
Unfortunately, a candidate without a degree may not even make it to a face-to-face interview if the vast majority of other candidates do have degrees of some sort.

The ratio of resumes to interviews during an engineering hiring cycle might be 50:1. That means the HR dept., hiring manager, or someone has to read through literally dozens of resumes for each one that might be worth following up on. So hiring managers are initially looking for ways to make the pool smaller (i.e., disqualifying candidates) rather than looking for what makes each snowflake special.

But you're right, by the time you get to an actual interview, previous experience, attitude, energy level, etc. are often more important than a degree.
 

Offline Zero999

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #18 on: May 22, 2018, 01:49:15 pm »
That said, I feel that most employers will be hesitant to hire someone without any formal education altogether. There may be some more "progressive" employers willing to give you a shot, but overall, probably more limited.

Come to Australia and it's completely different. The only ones who really care about qualifications are regulated industry (medical for example), and government departments. Most in the electronics industry don't care much. Can you do the job, and do we like you are the only questions asked. Here your qualification go in a footnote at the bottom of your resume.


Except don't you need a degree to be able to emigrate to Australia? I've heard it's a difficult country to get in to.

KhanAcademy is another good one. Knowledge is more widely available than ever before.

It's unfortunate that there isn't a lower cost path to a degree, or something in between because university tuition has reached absurd levels.

I suppose you could study online to get the knowledge then blast through a community college degree. If you already know the material then it will be much easier.

Why do you want to gain education?

If it's for a well paid job, then you need something formally recognised to get paid well, even if it's below degree level.

If it's for personal reasons, then there's a wealth of information available on the Internet for free. Whilst test equipment isn't free, it's much less expensive, than it used to be and parts are very cheap. There's also simulation software, but be very careful, it's not perfect and can land you in trouble later on.

I studied an HND (Higher, National, Diploma) at college, which is a recognised qualification, but below degree level, but I've acquired a lot of higher/degree level knowledge from the Internet and now know more than many graduates. However, I do think my formal education has enabled me to study further, even  informally, and it would have been more difficult starting with basic high school qualifications. I don't plan on going back to formal education though, partly due to my age as well as lack of interest.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2018, 03:26:53 pm by Hero999 »
 

Offline BillB

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #19 on: May 22, 2018, 01:49:36 pm »
Because the OP is in the US, formal education is a big deal, especially since the crash in 2008.  Because of the subsequent recession and the FedGov getting into the loan origination business, a massive bubble was blown in the secondary education market.  Many older workers postponed retirement while companies cut back.  This significantly reduced the number of entry level jobs available.  Kids had little choice but to stay in school, especially since loans were so easy to get.  So, they did.

As a result, we have a huge number of, in effect, over-educated and over-qualified candidates competing for the entry level jobs that are available now.

My company is in desperate need of talented engineers (but we have special constraints on hiring) and it is highly unusual to see candidates that have no formal education.

 

Online rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #20 on: May 22, 2018, 02:14:58 pm »
The story sounds familiar...

I started college in Sept 1963 and dropped out the day Kennedy was assassinated, Nov 22, 1963.  Correlation, not causation...  I just wasn't ready for college.

I started college again in '69 and graduated in '73, took a couple of years off and then finished my Master's in '76.  I never looked back.  Electronics, and the degrees, were really a hobby plus they paid the cost of admission to a professional career.  Mostly, I worked in electrical and project management.

I left out the bit where I spent a couple of years in the Army and that allowed me to use the GI Bill to pay for college.  I still have some of the $8 text books!  But undergrad was a night program and I was working 40-60 hours per week as an electrician.  There wasn't a lot of spare time...

Today, I would recommend going to community college long enough to get an AS degree in something and then transferring to an in-state college to finish the last two years.  Community college used to be considered something of a joke.  Not any more!  Around here (California), the material is deep and thorough.  I've been helping my grandson with Calc I (finally over) so I'm pretty current on what is going on.  The key is to get the AS degree rather than just barely enough transfer units to get into a state college.  It's a step in the process.  You HAVE the AS degree in your hannd, there's no taking that away.

Having a degree is a binary thing.  You either have one or you don't and there is no middle ground.  You can have all the knowledge equivalent to having a degree, heck you could be better educated than most graduates, but it doesn't mean a thing when your resume' is trashed due to no degree.  And that is really the way it is, degree or no degree - binary.

There's an enormous amount of help on the Internet.  Khan Academy, Desmos.com, Symbolab.com, CalcWorkshop.com (costs money and worth every penny), 3Blue1Brown videos, and so on.  Help is nearly endless.  There's even one site (costs money) that has all of the homework solutions for a number of popular Calculus texts including Stewart's.

It doesn't matter which branch of engineering you sign up for, the lower division (4 semesters) all have math starting at Calc I and progressing through Calc III and finally Differential Equations.  This is some serious math and there's no time to study Pre-Calc and you simply won't make it through Calc without Pre-Calc.  At our local community college, Pre-Calc is a two semester (1 year) course all by itself and it doesn't count toward the 4 semesters of math in the AS program.  Consider it a cost of entry and plan to add a year to community college.  Three years - minimum.  Plus 2 years at the state level (probably turns out to be 3).  Figure 6 years to get through college these days unless you are one of the very bright young kids that aced AP classes.

Financing is always a problem but if you only spend two years at an in-state institution, receive some grants, it might not be terribly expensive.  It won't be nearly as expensive as not going.

STEM programs aren't for the casually inclined.  You need to take 12-15 units per semester and, at some point, all of them are going to be hard classes.  Figure 2 or 3 hours (5 hours if you are having trouble) of homework per week, per unit.  Plus an hour per week per unit of class time (except for labs, they are 1 unit and take LOTS of hours).  A 15 unit load will require at least 60 hours per week of class and homework.  Maybe more!  That's 8 hours per day, 5 days plus a couple of hours off on Sunday.  This is no joking matter, people horribly underestimate what it takes to get a STEM degree.

Hint:  Try to spread out your General Education courses such that you have one of these easy courses every semester.  That way you will only have 2 hard classes plus 1 easy class.  You'll get the idea...

Hint:  Talk to a counselor at the community college and select a program.  Then build a map of the courses you need in the order you have to take them.  Build a map on a piece of project board sticking 3x5 cards on the board for each class.  You order them by their pre-requisites - essentially the order in which you have to take them.  You will have 3 or 4 columns (one of which will be all math) depending on how many units you plan to take per semester.  This is your map!  Keep it handy!  Pull off (or cross out) the classes as you finish them.

Hint:  It doesn't get easier as you get older.  Get started!

 

Offline dr.diesel

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #21 on: May 22, 2018, 02:34:37 pm »
I know that when I interview people, the question about their education does not even cross my mind. I'm looking for completed projects and some level passion for the field.
Unfortunately, a candidate without a degree may not even make it to a face-to-face interview if the vast majority of other candidates do have degrees of some sort.

The ratio of resumes to interviews during an engineering hiring cycle might be 50:1. That means the HR dept., hiring manager, or someone has to read through literally dozens of resumes for each one that might be worth following up on. So hiring managers are initially looking for ways to make the pool smaller (i.e., disqualifying candidates) rather than looking for what makes each snowflake special.

But you're right, by the time you get to an actual interview, previous experience, attitude, energy level, etc. are often more important than a degree.

This can't be stressed enough in the US, any resume without a 4 year degree won't even make it to my desk.  Even if I personally know you, I am prevented from hiring any non degreed engineers (even technicians now) by HR, no matter how much I push for the candidate.

Right or wrong, that is the way it is, at least for larger corporations.
 
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Online rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #22 on: May 22, 2018, 02:37:29 pm »

As a result, we have a huge number of, in effect, over-educated and over-qualified candidates competing for the entry level jobs that are available now.


And despite this, the annual mean wage for a computer hardware engineer in Silicon Valley is about $146k.  That's 'mean', not 'top' (nor 'bottom').  These folks are making some pretty nice money!

https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172061.htm#st 

Don't overlook all the terrific career information available at www.bls.gov.  You can drill down by profession, area, wage and so on.  This is a very useful site!
 

Online rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #23 on: May 22, 2018, 02:39:38 pm »
I know that when I interview people, the question about their education does not even cross my mind. I'm looking for completed projects and some level passion for the field.
Unfortunately, a candidate without a degree may not even make it to a face-to-face interview if the vast majority of other candidates do have degrees of some sort.

The ratio of resumes to interviews during an engineering hiring cycle might be 50:1. That means the HR dept., hiring manager, or someone has to read through literally dozens of resumes for each one that might be worth following up on. So hiring managers are initially looking for ways to make the pool smaller (i.e., disqualifying candidates) rather than looking for what makes each snowflake special.

But you're right, by the time you get to an actual interview, previous experience, attitude, energy level, etc. are often more important than a degree.

This can't be stressed enough in the US, any resume without a 4 year degree won't even make it to my desk.  Even if I personally know you, I am prevented from hiring any non degreed engineers (even technicians now) by HR, no matter how much I push for the candidate.

Right or wrong, that is the way it is, at least for larger corporations.

If you want your resume' to stand out, spend the time to get a Master's.  It may take another year or two, depending on the program, but it's worth every penny.  Where I worked, everybody has a degree.  The leaders had Master's and the top bosses had PhDs.  Just the way it was...
 

Online rstofer

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Re: Cheapest way to gain knowledge/education?
« Reply #24 on: May 22, 2018, 02:51:30 pm »
Summer session is just starting around here.  Sign up for something!  Get started!
 


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