Mike Rowe talks how he is redefining what a college degree means

As student loan debt and college tuitions rise, the TV host talks about his push to redefine the definition of a good education and a good job, live on "GMA."
7:01 | 04/17/19

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Transcript for Mike Rowe talks how he is redefining what a college degree means
Now, a new approach -- a new approach to education that could totally change you and your child's future. The U.S. Student loan debt is soaring. It can take decades for people to pay off. Mike Rowe, the former host of dirty jobs wants to change that by focusing on the value of skilled trade. Move past the debt. Take on in-demand work like Carlin and you'll see her story right now. All right. Let's do it. Reporter: It's all in day's work for Carlin Mcclellan. Good job. Reporter: In 2002 she was headed down a different path. She wasn't carrying tools. She was carrying $60,000 in student loan debt starting a career as a probation officer. I was told student loan debt is good debt. You'll get a job, you'll pay it Reporter: Except it would take her 15 years, the 36 then stay at home mother of two was ready to try something new. In the construction field. I was about two weeks into my program when I realized I should have done construction my whole entire life. I didn't realize that any of these opportunities existed. No one talked to me about this My name is Mike Rowe. That's my job. Reporter: Someone who's helping to spread the word about skilled trades is "Dirty jobs'" host Mike Rowe. Through his foundation, he's granted over $5 million to help over 1,000 students pursue a technical or a vocational education. Including Carlin. I'm applying for your work ethic scholarship program. Reporter: She graduated with her construction trades degree in 2018. I wasn't going to go if I couldn't get the funding. It was huge. Reporter: Today, Carlin is a licensed contractor with a renewed purpose. The most amazing thing about this job is you can walk away from a project and go, I built that. And Mike Rowe the founder of the foundation is here. Who knew, good to see you again. We were at a speaking gig together down at Mexico. I heard this. We got to let people know what you're doing. I said, oh, no, not that. Not TV. I don't have a voice for TV. Let's talk about her story and others. She had no idea. She had no idea. Most people don't. We have 7 million jobs right now that are open. Vast majority don't require a four-year degree. So, there's a ton of opportunities that people don't talk about. What we're talking about instead unfortunately is the best path for most people. A cookie cutter approach on how to figure things out. Get a four-year degree, borrow whatever it takes to get it and get out into the world and pursue your dream. And what's happened as a result in my view, that skills gap has gotten wider. The debt that you just mentioned is approaching $1.6 trillion and we're still lending money we don't have to kids who can't pay it back. It's madness. My foundation looks for people who are willing to hit the reset button, retool, learn a skill that's in demand and then get to work. It's about perception. When you talk about trade schools and community college, there's a certain -- people have a certain impression about that. We got to eliminate. We're in a binary time right now. Everything is this or that. Blue collar or white collar. Right or left. Everything is framed with kind of a false choice. So, your choice isn't college or oblivion. It's not higher education versus alternative education. There are so many ways to go from apprenticeships, to fellowships, all of it is equal. When you promote one form of education at the expense of the others you create the problem that we're having right now. It's fine to say, it's fine to push college. But you can't push college by saying, if you don't go over here you're going to bind up with some vocational consolation It's not a consolation prize at all. Jeffrey Owen, the actor from the Cosby show, he was trying to be shamed for working at trader Joe's. I remember him saying, a job is a job. One may look better on a resume than another. There's no such thing as a bad job. Microjobs came out of "Dirty jobs." What freaked people out watching it was the cognitive dissew nance that occurs when you see somebody doing something that's supposed to make you miserable but it makes you joyful. Why is everybody laughing in the sewer? Why is having a good job at these jobs that I'm taught will be make me sad and unhappy? The job is not the proximate cause of your happiness. You are. Amen about that. You know, Mike, follow your follow your passion. Find a way to get paid for it. You have a little twist on that. We all want to be passionate about what we do. Why would we wait until we're doing the magical thing that allows you to passionate? These people were passionate about what they were doing but they didn't sit down and say, okay, what do I have to do to be happy? I need this job, this kind of live in this sort of zip code. I need this kind of education. You spend all your life checking boxes to feel good about the thing that you ought to feel good about right now. These are very basic lessons. I've been disconnected -- Really? Sure. I became disconnected from food came. You take it all for granted. Part of the reason the skills gap is so acute. Part of the reason the debt is so high. We have to push back. You're doing that with your foundation. Thank you for the work that you're doing. Say hello to your mama. Next, I want to get your mom on the show. If my mom comes here we're all out of a job.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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