It is no secret that the cost of getting a four-year is incredibly expensive and the skyrocketing expense is having negative effects that ripple through the economy. Students are saddled with enormous debt, parents are raiding their retirement funds, and the U.S. Government is forgiving debt to try to deal with the $1.7 Trillion dollars that is collectively owed.
According to Forbes, students who take on debt have borrowed over $28,000 and this is applied nearly equally to those that go to public or private schools. Over 55% of all students have college debt. The average tuition for a private college is $38,185 and for in-state public colleges, it is $10,338, according to U.S. News and World Report.
There are many ways to both save for college and reduce the cost of an education, and it is possible to graduate debt free using both traditional methods such as 529 plans and unique methods including little-known scholarships and grants that few apply for.
One of the tried-and-true methods of lowering the total cost of a four-year degree is to go to a Community College for the first two years, then transferring into a four-year school. The average cost of in-state community college is only $4,800 according to Community College Review. If a student has the goal of getting a degree from a private school, making your first higher learning stop a community college you will save at least $66,000 overall, and likely much more.
Like all important decisions, there are advantages and disadvantages to the community college approach, and they each need to be weighed carefully:
The experience of the educators needs to be evaluated and a community college can sometimes employ professors with less impressive credentials, so research should be done prior to making a final decision. In addition, not all credits may transfer and in some cases the student may not know until very late that they are short on credits, forcing them to take extra classes at the second, more expensive school.
From a social perspective, “the college experience” does not exist usually for a community college student. Frat parties, dorm life and other social aspects are not the norm. Also, there can be a stigma of going to a community college. Finally, one added expense is a car and gas to get to school each day that needs to be factored in.
Saving over $60,000 is a compelling advantage but also is the reduced stress of either lower debt levels or less family savings tapped into. Having lower debt levels and/or higher cash balances can be very helpful especially when one may not haver complete clarity on their employment status four years into the future.
Another great advantage is future employers will only see where the student graduated from, as there no requirement usually to disclose every school someone went to. This solves for any stigma fears once in the workforce.
Many students change their majors during their higher education journey, so the less expensive first two years can be viewed as “not wasted” from that perspective. Another benefit is that very often those that go to a community college also have part- or full-time jobs and there is something to be said about being in the company of students where a strong work ethic is present.
Where someone goes to college is a big decision, and consulting with a financial advisor that is knowledgeable about college funding can be invaluable, and they can help you weigh the community college option to see if it works for your situation.
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