Lots of people, whether they’re graduating from high school or going back to school after some years of working, look at the cost of college and say, “Nope, can’t afford it.” Tuition in colleges and universities, even public state institutions, is going up every year, and for many people, it’s just not manageable. But there is another answer: community college.
According to the College Board, more than 40% of U.S. undergraduate students attend community colleges. On average, tuition and fees are less than $3150 a year. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, that translates to savings of up to $35,000 based on average college tuition costs.
The Benefits of Community College
Easier transition from high school— Many professors will tell you, if you make it through freshman year, you’ll probably make it through the next three. Many freshmen drop out because the change from high school to college (with higher academic demands; new, distracting social interests; and all the responsibilities of independent adulthood) can be overwhelming all at once. Community college can allow you to ease into the rigor of college-level work while keeping the comforts of your familiar life.
Community colleges have an open admission policy – Everyone who applies is accepted to community college, so if you had some rough patches in high school, community college can provide a place to prove yourself. That’s the mission of the community college – to bring education to everyone who wants it. And after a couple of years of working hard and earning higher grades, you’ll be in a better position to transfer to a four-year college or university.
Tuition costs are much lower than 4-year schools— Basic courses – the ones most people take in their first two years at a university or college – are pretty much the same anywhere. Freshman Composition, for instance, or College Algebra, is going to be taught in community college by credentialed, experienced instructors. Why pay a higher sticker price when course content for those first two years is fairly standard?
Living at home will save you on room and board or rent – Living is expensive. Many freshmen and their families do not realize how much living in a dorm and eating in the cafeteria will cost them, or, at least, they don’t think about that when they’re filling out applications. Living off-campus, having to provide your own meals, can be even more expensive. Taking your first two years at a community college in your area while you stay at home will save a lot in the long run, even if you’re helping your parents out with the bills (which you definitely should do).
Transfer acceptance rates are higher than entering as a freshman— Universities, and colleges have to maintain their standards – they can’t just take everyone who applies, so odds are when you’re applying as a freshman, you’re going to get cut unless you’re the cream of the crop. However, there’s a loophole: a higher percentage of students transferring from a community college get accepted because they’ve had time to prove themselves. Do some time in the community college, then apply to that university you’ve been dreaming of – you’ve got a better chance now.
The Not-so Much Benefits of Community College
The retention rate is not encouraging— Know this: the odds of finishing will be against you. Dropout rates at community colleges are high, mainly because they accept everyone, including people who are not prepared for college work. Not to mention finishing on time, meaning in two years, so that you can swiftly transfer into another institution and complete a 4-year degree program. If you’re going to go to community college, make up your mind right now that you will be one of the ones who focus, finish, and transfer. Then make it happen.