College is a complicated issue for many students and parents today. It’s a necessity for finding success and prosperity in many career paths, but concerns about student loan debt and graduate unemployment are making the process of pursuing higher education more stressful and uncertain than ever before. Community colleges are becoming increasingly popular options for students everywhere as a means of securing credits before transferring to a university. But there are other reasons students and their parents should consider community college.
1. Community college has an undeserved bad reputation
Community colleges are often stigmatized in many academic circles. Students and parents alike disdain the idea of a community college education because they believe prestigious institutions look down upon them. Worries about how an employer will view community college education on a résumé can be disconcerting as well. However, you shouldn’t be concerned about such fallacies. Your teen can study at a community college before transferring to another school and still have access to all the same opportunities as every other student while receiving a valuable education at a much lower cost.
2. Community college saves you money
With college costs soaring year after year, community college remains one of the most affordable options in higher education—in fact, it can save you a bundle in more ways than one. Community college tuition is significantly lower than that of traditional four-year colleges and universities, including public and in-state institutions. While attending a local community college, students can often remain at home to save on room and board, which is close to $10,000 a year on average at four-year schools.
If your student is employed while in high school, they can keep their job by staying local throughout their college years. This income could go a long way toward paying for transportation and college costs. And if low grades are preventing them from getting a scholarship at a college or university, attending a community college to earn an associate degree can be an affordable stepping stone, giving them the opportunity to improve their grades and transfer to a university with a possibility of a scholarship. While you could likely finance an expensive private college or university education with federal or private student loans, attending community college means your student will be one step ahead financially if they can enter the workforce with minimal debt or possibly even debt-free.
3. Community college develops career interests
While studying key academic subjects like writing and mathematics at a community college, your teen could also explore other lines of study through elective courses. This can help them find paths that’ll lead to prosperous careers. Exposure to philosophy in community college could spur an interest in law. A course in the arts or writing could unlock a passion for creative work that leads to a prosperous and fulfilling career. Community colleges allow students to explore a variety of subjects without the financial stress that comes from university costs.
4. Community colleges confer valuable degrees
Community college students can earn an affordable associate degree and transfer to a four-year college or university quite easily. This is an especially good option for students who have low GPAs but want to ultimately pursue a career that requires a bachelor’s degree. Your student could walk away with two degrees instead of one in only four years. In addition, community college is an ideal place to get training in the trades. Many in-demand, well-paying jobs require only an associate degree, with more and more educational programs offering career-focused degrees. Working as an electrician, plumber, or mechanic can be financially lucrative, and major shortages of qualified workers in these fields are on the horizon.
So, is community college a wise choice?
Selecting a college is one of the most important decisions your student will make. Community college is an especially important option to consider if your teen:
- Doesn’t particularly enjoy school, isn’t confident academically, or has a low GPA;
- Isn’t certain what field they’re interested in pursuing yet;
- Wants to pursue a career that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree;
- Wants to pursue a career that only requires certification or training; and/or
- Aren’t ready to be fully independent and could benefit from an easier transition from high school to college.
Having your student attend community college may just be the right financial decision for your family. Transferring to a four-year university after two years of community college could help ease your financial burden and still ensure your student gets the full college experience. As you help your teen navigate the college selection process, take a second look at community college to see if it might be the right choice for them.
If you or your student are curious about what transferring to a four-year school would look like, check out Our Best Advice for the Transfer Admission Process.