Are you looking to get your degree but feel discouraged by the skyrocketing financial statistics? You’re not alone. It’s no secret that college tuition bills have been soaring over the years, which means that many of us become weary about being able to afford a four-year college. But what about a community colleges, are they cheaper?
On the one hand, some finance experts say that getting a two-year degree at a community college and then transferring over to a four-year school may be the key in cutting costs on your education.
So how much can you save by attending a community college? Between $6,800 to $35,000, according to a study by the Chronicle of Higher Education. And, when including additional expenses such as transportation, books, food, insurance, health costs and living expenses, savings were even greater. So in this sense, it may make sense to earn your two-year degree and then transfer afterward. By doing this, you’re able to accumulate class credits at a community college and then finish your degree at a four-year college, which is the university that will be stated on your resume.
Community college sometimes has a stigma about whether course content is as competent.
“Course content is fairly standard for Math 101 or English 101. Furthermore, the odds are your community college teacher will be as competent, skilled in the classroom and dedicated as a university professor (or teaching assistant). In many instances, your community college instructors will be better,” says Dr. Robert Ronstadt, a former vice president of Boston University. “That’s the good news for students pursuing the community college option.”
It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it — a champagne education at a beer price? Maybe so. On the downside, transferring to a four-year school may not be as easy as you may think. In fact, many students actually wind up losing financial aid dollars, as well as class credits in the process — and that would essentially defeat the whole purpose of beginning your education at a community college.
“Let’s say a student completes 2.5 years at an institution, but when they go to transfer, it’s required that they do another 60 credits at the new institution. That’s 15 credits lost,” explains Jane Dessoye, executive director of enrollment management at Misericordia University in Dallas, PA. “That means a student isn’t just incurring another year of fees and tuition and room and board, but that’s another year that they aren’t in the workforce.”
Conversely, this caveat doesn’t mean that beginning at a community college and transferring is out of the question if you want to save money. In some instances, the transfer may still be financially worth it. The key to making sure you’re getting the most out of your college transfer is to do your research beforehand. One way to do this is to send your transcript to the school you’re looking to transfer to before applying for admission. If you find out that your credits won’t make the cut, you can look into whether or not it’s worth it.
Something else to keep in mind is that in order to earn a degree in four years, you must be a full-time student at the community college (instead of taking a few classes here or there, and earning a two-year degree in more than two years) — and that means taking (and being able to pay for) a full course load. And typically, if a student can’t meet the expense of a four-year college off the bat, they may have a hard time coming up with the funds for five courses per semester. In that case, it’s important to be sure that you’re fully aware of how much your tuition will cost, including expenses such as transportation, textbooks and others.
“I encourage all students to ask each college, ‘What will my total cost of attendance be?’” says Tyler Peterson, director of recruitment for Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama. “Financial aid offices should be able to give a good faith estimate of what the costs will be for next year.”
All in all, while attending a community college for the first two years may be financially worth it for some, it could potentially cost others more in the end. It’s important to do your research before leaping into the decision and make sure you’re making the choice that’s financially fitting for you.
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