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Christy-Faith interviews Hannah Maruyama of Degree Free, who helps young adults find career roadmaps without needing college degrees. They discuss the flaws of the academic industrial complex and the misconception that college degrees are necessary for success. They also touch on the pressure homeschooling parents face to prepare their children for college and the importance of considering alternative paths. Hannah shares her own homeschooling experience and emphasizes the need to challenge societal norms and make strategic choices for our children’s futures.


* Colleges and universities often fail to teach critical thinking skills, as evidenced by the high failure rate of a test designed to assess these skills.
* The academic industrial complex is a system that profits from student debt and often fails to provide value in terms of job training and critical thinking education.
* Parents should consider alternative paths to college for their children, as college degrees are not always necessary for success and can lead to significant debt burdens.
* Homeschooling parents may feel pressure to prepare their children for college, but it is important to challenge societal norms and consider alternative career roadmaps.
* Strategic choices and individualized career plans can lead to fulfilling and successful futures without the need for a traditional college education.


Hannah Maruyama and her husband Ryan build custom career roadmaps to help 16-20 year olds get great jobs without needing colleges degrees. They also run Degree Free, a top U.S. Careers podcast!

Find Hannah at:* 


Hannah Maruyama: A few years ago, colleges were told by the Department of Education to design a test that would show whether or not they were actually teaching critical thinking skills. And this was at major universities and colleges across the country. The colleges designed this test for themselves and then proceeded to fail it at a 45 percent rate.

Christy-Faith: Welcome to the Christy-Faith Show, where we share game changing ideas with intentional parents like you. I’m your host, Christy-Faith, experienced educational advisor and homeschool enthusiast. Together, we’ll explore ways to enrich and transform. Both your life and the lives of your children.
Welcome everybody to today’s podcast of the Christy-Faith Show. I am so excited about our guest. I have been stalking you, miss Hannah on Tik TOK for several years. And I don’t know if you know this, but I was going to start a podcast. over a year ago. But then. Wiley came to me with a book deal and I couldn’t do both things at the same time because I am a homeschool mom too.
And so I actually put my podcast on hold to write my book. And so as soon as I started up my podcast. That is the dream of mine. It’s what I’ve been wanting to do all along I knew that I had to have you as a guest on the show because I love your message I love how empowering it is and in getting to know you before Filming I found out that you yourself were homeschooled So, let me just give you a brief introduction of who Hannah is Hannah and her husband Ryan build custom career roadmaps to help sixteen to twenty year olds get great jobs without needing college degrees.
They also run Degree Free, which is a top U. S. careers podcast. Thank you so much for being on the show, Hannah. First I want to ask you, before I ask you about your own homeschooling journey, I’d love to hear how you got into helping kids find career roadmaps in a degree free way. 

Hannah Maruyama: Absolutely, and this is my favorite question to answer and it’s one that people always go how did you start with this age group and it’s a pretty interesting story I like to think.
My story actually goes way back to 2020 during COVID. I lost my job on March 17th of 2020 at the time I was working at a call center making about 20, 000 a year. Then I came home and Ryan and I strategically decided to figure out what skills were valuable, teach myself, and then I decided which skills I was going to learn after that.
Took me 31 days to get a tech certification, and within 45 days of starting studying, I had my first remote tech job that was 70, 000 a year that said it required a computer science degree that it obviously didn’t require. And that, for me, I had always suspected that requirements on almost all jobs are actually requests, and that just really hammered it home for me.
It was the final nail in the coffin, where I just went, alright, it’s time to start talking about this, unpacking this, teaching other people how to do this. So, Ryan and I actually were working with adult job seekers, and interestingly, we had a community, so we were teaching like, cohort courses of teaching people how to do what I had done, and just strategically find work that made sense for them, and that would get them to the type of life they want to live, and we asked, um, In our community, we asked about how people needed help teaching their kids who were about to face the college decision and I have never seen anything like the type of response that we got.
Like, paragraphs, stories, even It was overwhelming and we just went, Oh, this matters a lot because all of the people that we were coaching, most of them had very large student debt burdens, were not working in the field that they were in, or they were having to switch jobs much older with kids with a lower budget than they would have had available to them if they had started correctly.
And that’s when we realized that we have the greatest leverage with our skill set. by preventing kids to going into student debt as opposed to trying to help adults get out of it after the fact. The way we think about it now is, first, we’re going to fix the flow of people into the college industrial, academic industrial complex, and then we will go back and we will build out resources for those who are still stranded and stuck in it.
So that’s what we’re doing right now. 

Christy-Faith: Now, what is, for those of you who have never heard this term before, the academic industrial complex, what is that?

Hannah Maruyama: Absolutely. So, for those who aren’t aware, there’s currently 1. 7 trillion dollars of student debt in the United States. That is owed by Americans to our college system.
A lot of people are not aware that Colleges are functionally head funds. They function, they buy assets, and then they grow wealth tax free. The endowments of the large colleges and universities in the U. S. are collectively worth 848 billion. It’s the only industry that is allowed to sell to minors bankruptcy exempt debt.
Like, legally, they are allowed to market, sell unethically, and I think fraudulently, market a result that they cannot get to children. And then the children cannot get out of it. 

Christy-Faith: Yes. Now, can you explain that? What is this result that they cannot get? 

Hannah Maruyama: So there’s two, this comes with two things. Usually what I say is college is not a good way to get work that will make your money back.
And then people say, well, then it’s learning. And I just say, okay, well, the stats say that it’s not learning because the CLA, which is the collegiate learning assessment a few years ago, Colleges were told by the Department of Education to design a test that would show whether or not they were actually teaching critical thinking skills.
And this was at major universities and colleges across the country. The colleges designed this test for themselves and then proceeded to fail it at a 45 percent rate after four years. No critical, no change in critical thinking. And so, What I mean when I say they can’t get the result is one, they can’t give people jobs because they’re not job training and two, they can’t even teach critical thinking because if you’ve been on a college campus recently, there’s zero critical thinking on campus, you know, and this was 10 years ago, the study was done.
And so gracious only knows how deeply that’s declined since, right? Because I would say that that’s an escalating trend, not one that’s deescalated. And then you can look at the recent trials of plagiarism at the highest levels of universities and then question how it’s allowed, how someone can be the dean of a prestigious university and entirely have plagiarized every academic achievement that they have and yet still hold tenured positions at colleges and we still hold these people up and it’s this protected class of people That for some reason our academics, they have no real skills and they don’t really produce much value.

Christy-Faith: You know, it’s so fascinating. I’m smiling. For those of you listening, just know I’m smiling. On YouTube, you can see me smiling because I have an undergraduate degree in history. And then, well, I want to be a college professor, so I went and got an assistantship, scholarships and all that, and got my graduate degree in history.
I get my first adjunct position teaching history, and I cried when I saw how much they were actually going to pay me to be a college history professor, adjunct, right? And so, I, I feel like that a lot of people in America, they Just like why you send your kid through the system, you don’t act, it’s just what everybody does and of course you need an education.
That is the pathway to open doors. What do you say to the people who tell you that, well, yeah, sure, Hannah, it’s a piece of paper, but that piece of paper is going to give my kid more options, rather than maybe a trade route. What would you say to a parent who says that? Like, I just don’t want any doors closed for my kids, so I’m gonna put them through a four year.
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Hannah Maruyama: That is such a good question, Christy. So there’s a couple of things that I want to unpack there. The first thing is I don’t want doors closed to my children. There is nothing that will slam a door in your child’s face, like 100, 000 worth of debt. And so people say, Oh, if they don’t purchase a degree, doors will be closed to them.
You know, what’s going to close off options in their life is having to service a student debt burden that they can’t service. That will close so many options to them. Not only, and I’m not even talking about career. I’m not talking about spouse. I’m talking about. Home, I’m talking about things that they want to have in their life that their options will be narrow drastically because of the debt burden that they carry with them.
And so I think it’s just flipping that on its head because we talk about college like it’s a foregone conclusion instead of a financial decision and a purchase. And so for a lot of people, they say, you know, well, I don’t want doors closed in my child’s face. Can you afford to open those doors? And then are you also okay with the doors you will close as a result of purchasing a degree that your child can’t afford?
forcing your child to pursue a degree that they can’t afford. The second thing that I want to unpack was, and I hear this a lot, I got into it with a guidance counselor on TikTok, as I, as I do, and this. Somehow I’m not surprised. You guys think I’m mouthy. You should go to her content. Sometimes I’ll record responses and Ryan just goes, don’t post that.
I’m like, but I want to. I know, I know. You get the filtered version. You get Ryan going, don’t say that. I’m like, but someone should. I got into it with a guidance counselor on TikTok who, and I actually, I will go on the record, if somebody goes through, I think I have, like, a thousand more plus TikToks posted.
There is hundreds of hours of content, thousands, maybe, hours of content that I’ve posted on the internet. I have never, not a single time, told people not to buy college degrees. Not once. I’ve never said, Don’t buy a college degree. I’ve never said that. Those words never come out of my mouth because that’s not what I believe.
What I believe is being strategic in your choices and if you need a college degree, that’s an entirely different thing and I’ll get into need later but basically to unpack the story about the guidance counselor is I, I made a video about, hey, you need to have these conversations with your child and I said your schools are not teaching these options to these kids.
They’re not. That, and one of the guidance counselors said, said, I’m a guidance counselor, I teach kids all their options, college, trades, the military. And I was like, okay, so that’s the problem. That’s the problem! Those are not, not to yell, but those, that’s exactly what I mean. The options are not college, trades, or the military.
And this is something where I’ve gotten into it on TikTok before where I was like, I’m not Mike Rowe. I’m not saying don’t send your kid to college. Instead, tell them to go pick up a wrench. What I’m talking about is don’t go to college. Go be a, go be an AI machine learning engineer. That’s what I’m saying.
That’s what I’m saying. Don’t go to college. Go be a midwife. Don’t go to college. And now this is the first time I’ve ever said don’t go to college. Don’t go to college, you know, don’t buy a college degree and, instead, go, go get trained as a watchmaker. You know, don’t buy a college degree, instead, write a book.
Don’t buy a college degree, instead, start a business. And that’s what I’m saying. I’m not at all saying that, like, oh, don’t buy a degree, go into the trades. I can’t stand that, actually, when people say it, like, Ken Coleman on the Dave Ramsey show is real big into that. And, he’s a good dude and stuff, but he constantly is like, “we need electricians.”
And what I want to say is, you’re not an electrician. Your children are probably not going to be electricians. And I don’t think he’s telling them that either. And what I want to say is, no, they could do your job, Ken. They could build businesses, you know? Anyway, that’s just how I feel. 

Christy-Faith: Right. Well, and that’s just the name of the game.
Like, they see a 15 second short form video and they just extrapolate. I mean, All the I’ve never shamed teachers. I was a teacher, a classroom teacher. I love them. A lot of us go into the profession because we care. I can’t tell you how many times people tell me that I am You know, throwing teachers under the bus, never have, or mom shaming, where in literally chapter one of my book, I say, one, not everyone can homeschool, and I make sure to also say, not everyone should.
And I mean that from the My heart. So can you talk about this? What you said, purchase a college degree. Never in my life, in all of my years of going through undergrad and graduate school, did I ever think I was purchasing a college degree? Can you help us make that mind shift mindset shift? 

Hannah Maruyama: Absolutely.
And this is something that one of my more viral videos was got picked up by Newsweek and USA Today, because what I just said is I said, It’s really cool for parents to not talk about the fact that there’s some kid college degrees that their children cannot afford to buy. And that’s really dependent on the family and the kid.
And I personally was, I say that because I was one of those people, I couldn’t afford to buy a bachelor’s degree. So for people that don’t know, I actually dual enrolled where I’m from in Georgia. In Savannah, I ended up dual enrolling at a local public high school, so I was fully dual enrolled, I was going to a local university that says it’s been bought by Georgia Southern, and I was at the university full time, I was taking full time college classes, and Passport was covered by a Pell Grant in high school, which I’m for, people should absolutely test out college while they’re in high school.
Especially if it’s free to them. But for me, I just, I had no business buying that. I had no business buying that because I couldn’t afford it. And I think people, one of the things that commonly hear is like, Oh, well, you know, education should be accessible. Like, education is accessible. College is inaccessible.
Those are not the same thing. That drives me absolutely nuts. Education and college are not synonyms. They never happen. And, and, and the academic industrial complex is one of the most potent marketing achievements we’ve ever seen. It’s like a timeshare, basically. They’ve convinced an entire generation of people that in order to enter into a certain social class or have access to any good jobs, you have to buy paper and you do not.
ZipRecruiter just released their stats. ZipRecruiter has really good data on The job market and current trends because of their interaction with both businesses and job seekers. And they have an AI component to their business that gives them very good information on the behavior of both sides of that marketplace.
Do you want to take a wild guess how many of those jobs that they had on the entire site required a bachelor’s degree? 

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Christy-Faith: I would guess less than half.

Hannah Maruyama: 9%. Now that is surprising to me. And then not only that, but like the N. C. Burning Glass Institute has done a ton of research on this and since this is, a lot of people think that this started in COVID in 2020.
It didn’t. It started in 2014. There has been a steady trend of down credentialing because what happened was, there was a knee jerk reaction to filter job applicants in 2008 after the crisis. And then after that, companies just left that requirement to thin the herd, as it were. And then the people that got hired on as HR during that time had spent a lot of money on their degrees.
Women value college degrees more than men, so now what you have is you have HR hiring staff. That don’t rewrite job descriptions for one. That’s a huge problem. And then the second is they have a paper bias Which is they are very biased towards believing a college degree is an indicator of individual value and so The whole industry is all the job and the entire like job seekers versus companies right now is in a giant state of upheaval due to the shift, but also due to the people who are still kind of influencing these hiring decisions, even as the market trends towards degree free hiring.

Christy-Faith: Yeah, so that’s so fascinating. And Scott, my husband, he has a degree in marketing and he has told me so many times, everything I learned in undergrad does not even apply. The marketing that was taught in undergrad to business majors does not even apply any more whatsoever. He’s like, I basically have given myself through my own education, three MBAs without actually getting an MBA.
And we already know as well, there’s been great books like, Carol Dweck’s mindset and things like that that are saying hey look, it’s more the soft skills anyway. What makes you, yeah, you do need hard skills and, and all of that, but true success and fulfillment and happiness in life has more to do with soft skills.
In my membership, we joke, it’s kind of a de schooling place where, where, because parents are like, what does my kid need to know for fifth grade? And I’m like, well, let’s take that as a grain of salt and let’s talk about what’s actually going to make your kid happy, what you really want as the outcome for your kid.
When you picture your kid at 40 even, what do you picture? And that’s what we can work towards now. And it may or may not involve a degree. Is there a time and a place where you do tell parents, no, your kid needs to go to college for this dream? Absolutely. 

Hannah Maruyama: If it’s legally required, a good example of that, I just finished a career curriculum, a roadmap for a girl who is outside of LA, in one of the larger suburbs, determined to be an O.R. nurse. Her sisters are nurses, she’s done the shadowing, I was a big fan of that, I’m very cautionary with girls who want to go into, and actually anybody, but specifically girls, If they’ve been in public school and they want to go into medicine, social work, psychology or teaching, because girls in public school specifically are always funneled to those things, they’re just, they just go, oh, you care about people, here you go.
Like, here’s a low paying job with a high cost degree, enjoy, good luck with the outcome of that. So, her dad found me and I ended up working with both of them to create her career roadmap. All the jobs that made it to her final three were medical jobs that required legal licensure. Some medical jobs do not require legal licensure.
Some of them require training, and increasingly hospitals are doing on the job training. But for her, you know, there’s no what size fits all. So for her, the goal is O.R. nurse. I’m like, all right, well, how do we get you there, you know, the most efficiently and the fastest? And to become a registered nurse, the only way is to get a degree.
That’s the only path, there’s no way around it, it just is, and well, kind of, so I gave her two options, and this is how, I’ll just discuss the process here, because then people can understand how dynamic this whole thing is, so I found her two options, one was to go get an E degree that has clinicals built into it in South Dakota, which is doing what I’m calling educational tourism at this point, they know that there are There’s a shortage of medical colleges that are cost efficient and useful and so they have designed a really good program that fits people that are coming from out of state to get RN licenses or LPN licenses or LVN licenses.
LPN, LPN is what it’s called everywhere. everywhere else. LVN is what it is in Texas and California. Same thing. There’s no practical difference. It’s just a different term. But for her, there was another path, which was to go. Her high school has a medical assisting program. That medical assisting program made her a good candidate for a CNA program that was being held at her local community college that there wasn’t a huge long wait list for that didn’t cost 70, 000.
And that was 800 for that CNA course. Once you have a CNA, You can work in the state of California and then test into PN license, right? One of the things she wanted to do was move to San Diego and live with her sisters. I said, okay, one of your options here is to do this, go live with your sisters, work and experience, be sure you want to be a nurse, and then after you’ve gotten, you’ve tested into your LPN, she needed 54 months of consecutive bedside nursing experience and a firm recall, and then after that, you can apply to a bridge program at a local, a local college to get an associate’s.
For your RN and that would take a much shorter time for her and cost way less money over overall, but it end up being that I think the direction they’re gonna take is that RN program in South Dakota takes 13 months I think it’s roughly 12, 000 which is laughable compared to what they were going to spend at a local community college Laughable, so that’s an example of where I said, this is your This is your only option.
You have to, you have to get a degree. You have to go to college. 

Christy-Faith: If you’re enjoying the show and you don’t want to miss out on future episodes, hit that like and subscribe button and show us some love with your comments. Those five star reviews really do make a difference. 

Hannah Maruyama: Because it’s licensed. 

Christy-Faith: That’s incredibly fascinating.
Now, you were homeschooled. Tell us about your homeschooling experience. 

Hannah Maruyama: I grew up in the military, so we moved around quite a lot. And like a lot of military families, the in and out of different schools gets really tough. So, for part of elementary school due to necessity, and then all of middle school, I was homeschooled.
And that, I think, was one, I’ve become a firm believer that no middle schooler should go to middle school because that’s a terrible time. I tend to agree with Maria Matsuri that during that age, they just need to be in the fields outside or just not in the, not inside because they’re crazy during that time.
But yeah, so that was my homeschooling experience. I read voraciously and then, I did horrible at math. Awful. Hated math. Still do. But that was my homeschooling experiences. A lot of reading, a lot of individual. At the time, my family lived in Hawaii, which is actually, I ended up moving back later, which is where I met my husband, where I met Ryan.
But this was middle school years. So my mom did a ton of amazing stuff. There’s four kids in my family. So we did, you know, we all swam competitively at Pearl Harbor. That was really cool. Like right over Pearl Harbor. So we would go to swim practice and see the Arizona every day, which was really neat.
Yeah. We did like sail, you know, MWR sailing. We volunteered at a homeless shelter down at the pier in Honolulu, and then we also helped restore an 1800s sailing ship that was at a boat museum that was there, which was really cool. Took some writing classes, like a lot of homeschoolers do. We were very big into the activities.
Did all kinds of stuff, always outside. 

Christy-Faith: You had mentioned that you see in the homeschooling space, this pressure for us homeschooling families to prepare our kids for college. Can you talk about that a little more? Because I definitely agree that because society is skeptical of us. We are constantly put in a defensive position.
And what is the easiest way to prove that you did a great job homeschooling your kid? Well, do such a great job that they get into a great four year school. Can you speak to that a little more and kind of demystify that? 

Hannah Maruyama: Yeah, that’s such a, there’s so much, there’s so much here too because there’s a couple things.
Yeah, that’s a big, that’s a big topic. I think there’s about five subtopics in there. 

Christy-Faith: I know. Well, you know that it’s the reality that we face and it’s not gonna go away. We, there is a general distrust in our society because of news and a couple articles and some famous Books that have made outliers, awful situations become somehow part of this narrative.
And there’s a general distrust, and we feel it. We have the mother-in-law who’s looking over our shoulder to see what our three year old’s doing.

Hannah Maruyama: Yeah, one of the things where, you might have even seen me get into it in the comments, but it’s so funny people say, oh, well, homeschool, you know, their homeschoolers, oh, what?
I just say, homeschoolers demolish. Every other traditional school kid. It’s not close in every metric, in every success metric that traditional education values. Homeschoolers destroy them every single time. So I, it’s always interesting to me that they can be so hypercritical of people who are excelling at their own game and beating them at their own game.
I’ve always thought that was really interesting because for me, I’m all about the numbers, which is why I’m so vehement about degree free, because I can see in the numbers, I can see in the data that this is not a good thing. This is not a good thing. We shouldn’t all be doing this and that’s my same feeling about the homeschoolers where to me I’m looking at this going.
Okay, if you spend all this time and all this money and all this effort to teach your kids differently Why in the world would you then funnel them into? What is essentially a reduced distilled version 12 years avoiding that to me is It really speaks to the strength of college marketing because that’s what it is.
It is absolutely cultural. It’s absolutely well, look I didn’t neglect my children. They got into Stanford, right? It’s absolutely and I’m not throwing shade. I’m, just saying it is a way, it is an outward way that you can convey to other people that you were a good parent. And homeschool parents, because they’ve been told, everyone’s put them under a microscope, even though they’re outperforming everybody else and said, you need to validate your decision to teach your child.
By having someone else who honestly will not do as good of a job as you or as good of a job as just working Teach your child and oh, by the way, you will pay every bit of money that you didn’t spend At a private school or on extracurricular educational activities Then your child will be paying down that debt until they’re 55.
That’s what you have to do to prove to me that you were beating us in our own game. That’s crazy. That’s an insane thing to do. And so I just want to say that to the parents that are listening to you because that’s great. Don’t let people do that to you. You are strong enough to put your kid on this path and teach them a different way.
You are also strong enough to say no, they don’t have to buy paper from this academic industrial complex to validate the fact that. That they’re going to be fine from what I taught them. 

Christy-Faith: Right. Or that you did a good job. Yeah. And to prove somehow that you did a good job at this because we’re doing this to ignite that fire within our kids.
And college might be the path for them because of a specific degree necessity. But like my son wants to be a lawyer. He doesn’t want to be a paralegal. He wants to be a lawyer. So it’s like, all right. Okay, well, we got to start planning that. 

Hannah Maruyama: Or move to Washington or California. 

Christy-Faith: Yeah, exactly. 

Hannah Maruyama: So, for those that don’t know, you can read the law for a state still, and California and Washington are two of them.
Washington state has the highest pass rate, 52 percent for reading the law, which used to be how lawyers were until the ABA. 

Christy-Faith: Oh, interesting. Okay. Well, I love that. Thanks for joining us for part one. We hope you gained some valuable insights. Be sure to catch part two where we’re going to continue this great conversation.