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Will Community College Save Me Money?

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There are many reasons students choose community college to start their higher education, but one of the primary reasons is simple: money. The editors at College Consensus want prospective students to understand how to save money by going to community college.

Can I Save Money By Going to Community College?

The brief answer to the question is: Yes. Going to community college will save you money. But, and there’s always a but, you need to investigate the cost of community colleges, the transferability of the credits, and make sure that the classes you take are applicable to your desired major. Community college costs a lot less than a four-year institution and can lower your total student loan amount. There’s also the potential for earning a degree in less time than four years by attending classes during the summer semesters. 

As always, there are pros and cons to attending a community college as opposed to attending a university and living away from home. 

Comparing the Cost of Community Colleges to Four-Year Institutions

The average community college cost per academic year is anywhere from $3,700 to $5,000 for a full-time student. How much a student actually pays for their average community college tuition depends on geographic location and selected classes. A student whose primary goal is to get their core curriculum completed for less money will most likely have lower community college costs than someone who wants to earn their associate’s degree prior to earning their bachelor’s degree. 

The average cost for community college is much lower than a four-year college. A four-year public university costs $10,000 per school year on average for in-state students, and around $20,000 for out-of-state students. Private schools cost $35,000 per academic year on average. It’s easy to see how the average cost for community college can be attractive to students who want a college eduction, but are price-sensitive when it comes to paying for their education. 

Should I Go to a Community College and Transfer to a Bachelor’s Degree?

You have to decide if you want to start with community college and transfer to a 4-year college to complete your bachelor’s degree, saving money on your overall total tuition costs. There are pros and cons to taking classes at a community college in order to take advantage of the lower average community college tuition fees. Community colleges have lower costs due to their “bare bones” arrangements. That is, a community college typically has fewer features and amenities than a four-year institution. Athletics teams tend to be limited in their scope due to being in local conferences, and recreational facilities may not have a lot in the way of quality equipment. Another consideration is the fact that community colleges are also known as “commuter schools” since they don’t have dormitories. 

The lack of amenities isn’t always a dealbreaker, especially if you plan your course to transfer your credits to a four-year school and aren’t concerned with extracurricular activities. Eventually you’ll be attending a school that has more in the way of facilities and amenities that you can take advantage of and enjoy. The lower average community college cost can provide you with an educational advantage that you might not be able to achieve in strict pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.

Should I Get My Associate’s Degree Before Getting My Bachelor’s?

Community colleges offer two-year degrees in a variety of areas of study. Depending on your plans to start your career and the transferability of your class credits, you might want to earn your associate’s degree. The low average community college tuition makes earning an associate’s degree an attractive proposition. The potential exists for a student to earn their associate’s, find employment in their area of study, pay down any student loan debts, then return to school at a later date to earn a bachelor’s degree. Going this route does mean that the student gets their degree a little later than their peers, but it confers a financial advantage as well as experiential. Life experience can be of assistance when it comes to enrolling into a school for a bachelor’s degree program.

What if I Just Want to Get My Core Curriculum Classes Out of the Way?

You can never have too many degrees, but if your community college doesn’t offer an associate’s degree program that aligns with your goals, you can most certainly take core curriculum classes and transfer them to a school of your choice. This is a way to take advantage of the low average community college cost and stay on track to earn a bachelor’s degree in four years or less. As previously mentioned, community college is an option to get an accelerated degree and enable you to get out into the workforce sooner than later. There’s also an advantage in the form of lower tuition cost and the opportunity to graduate with a lower student loan debt load while earning a bachelor’s degree from a highly-regarded school. 

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