There are exceptions to most rules, including this one. Consider for example what has taken place with Blender. I know a lot of people who would have been learning 3DS Max (or Maya, etc.), but now know and use Blender instead because that's what they can afford.
And these students don't have to venture forth into The Industry. They can create their own that will topple the existing one. There are plenty of growing startups who would be more than happy to hire someone with "3D Skillz", and many of them don't care what tools they use, so long as the work gets done.