Teen Vogue – Want to cut 2/3 off the cost of your college education? The search for the right college for you can sometimes seem like a daunting and potentially expensive path. What many students don’t realize is that they may be missing a gem in their own hometown. A community college may not seem like a “dream school,” but it can set you on the path toward a successful future for only a fraction of the cost. Earning credits or even an associate’s degree at a community college can be transferred to a four-year college or university and you can save a boatload of cash on your first two years of higher education.
Avoiding paying room and board for college (if you live at home instead of renting an apartment since there usually aren’t dorms at community colleges) is another cost-saving measure.
In 2017-18, the average tuition and fees for a full-time student at public two-year institutions nationally was $3,570, compared with $9,970 (in-state) at public four-year colleges and $34,740 at private universities, according to the College Board. After federal financial aid, 71 percent of community college students pay less than $1,000. Some states are beginning to make community college free through specific scholarship programs: New York, Oregon, Tennessee, and most recently, Rhode Island.
Community college can be an especially good fit if you don’t know what career you want to pursue. At a community college, you can take a variety of courses at a low cost in different academic disciplines to help you figure out what you want to ultimately major in, if you plan to transfer.
What community colleges are known for is offering programs that are connected to the needs of the local economy. Associate degrees can be earned to enter the workforce right away after two years of study. Popular degrees like dental hygiene ($72,910 average salary), diagnostic medical sonography ($68,970 average salary), nursing (to become a registered nurse at an average starting salary of $66,640) are all available. If you want to start a career sooner than the average college graduate, a community college may be a good fit.
Guaranteed Admission and Seamless Transfer to Four-Year Colleges
Don’t like taking tests? Community colleges don’t require entrance exams like the SAT. Nearly anyone can take a class at a community college simply by registering for class.
If you know you may want to transfer to a state university, you can take many of the four-year required courses at a community college cheaper than at a state university. Most community colleges have agreements with state universities to help make a transfer seamless and not lose college credits in the process.
A great advantage of attending some community colleges is guaranteed transfer to a state university when certain requirements are met (usually a GPA requirement). States like Arizona, California, Hawaii, Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Virginia have agreements in which community college students are guaranteed admission to state universities, if they meet the requirements.
For example, Northern Virginia Community College has a guaranteed admission agreement to 40 universities, if a certain GPA and other requirements are met. To show how this is advantageous, here is a scenario: say you want to attend the University of Virginia (UVA), one of the top public universities in the country. If you attended a community college for the first two years and earned a certain GPA, you would be automatically guaranteed admission to UVA, but you would pay $5,497 per year for the first two years of college instead of $30,490 per year for the same first two years. You’ve just saved nearly $50,000 ($49,986 to be exact)!
And you might not even have to leave your community college campus to transfer to another institution to earn your bachelor’s degree. FSU@Mass Bay — a partnership between Framingham State University (FSU) and Massachusetts Bay Community College, both in the Boston area — enables students to stay at the community college to finish a bachelor’s degree with FSU professors who come to the Mass Bay campus. In Texas, the Lone Star College System has agreements with several universities that offer bachelor’s and master’s degree programs on two of their community college campuses designated as Learning Centers — so you could “transfer” and stay in the local area or even the same campus to earn a bachelor’s degree. Innovative programs like these are popping up, so pay attention to the local degree programs in your area.
You can also potentially transfer to a private college or university — even an Ivy League institution like Yale or Harvard — after attending a community college. Did you know that Eileen Collins, the first woman astronaut to command a space shuttle mission, attended a community college? The sky is the limit!
A Solid Education — and Often Flexible Scheduling
Community college courses are taught by professors who have the same educational background as professors who teach at four-year colleges and universities. In fact, at many universities, students are taught by teaching assistants who are graduate students rather than professors with graduate degrees. The rigor in a community college class is oftentimes the same as another nearby institution. What is attractive to many students is that many community colleges have classes at more flexible times than a typical college. In addition to daytime classes, community colleges usually offer many evening classes as well as classes on weekends and online and sometimes hybrid classes in which you take part of the course in a classroom and part of the course online.
Services Comparable to a Typical College
Just like a four-year college, community college has services to help students succeed, including career services, academic assistance like tutoring and writing centers, clubs, honors program, specialized internships with local employers, and even study abroad.
Student life on a community college can be bustling despite not living on campus like at a four-year college. For instance, in South Florida, Miami Dade College, the country’s largest community college, manages the Miami International Film Festival. And in California, RCC Marching Tigers or “Hollywood’s Band” is the marching band of Riverside City College that has appeared in parades such as the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as well as in movies and on television.
Get a Jump Start on College in High School with Dual Enrollment
Did you know that you can earn college credits while you are still in high school? Nationwide 15% of all community college students are still in high school, according to a recent report.
Dual enrollment, or taking college classes while still in high school, can save you money if credits are transferred when you enroll in college. It can also allow you to decide whether or not you would like to attend a community college or apply to four-year colleges. Whatever you decide, consider your local college options—including community colleges—in your college search. You may find the right place for you and pay a lot less!
Find a community college in your state.
Written by Elaina Loveland