Community College – Is It a Better Value

Today, a college education is one of the most valued assets anyone can have. Going to college is one of the biggest decisions anyone can make, whether you’re fresh out of high school or if you’re headed back after spending years in the workforce. It’s not uncommon to see people immediately seek for a bachelor’s degree from a four-year private college or public university, largely for the prestige and value it brings, directly out of high school. On the other hand, you might find just as much value in obtaining an education from a community college.

Not only are you able to walk away from a community college with a much smaller debt load, you can put your associate’s degree to good use in the workforce with the option of obtaining your bachelor’s degree later on.

Community Colleges

While the average four-year college or university offers courses related to academic fields of study, community colleges offer courses that teach students skills needed for specific jobs, including automotive repair, HVAC service and installation, machine maintenance and paralegal tasks. As a result of this more intensive focus, community college students are able to earn their associate’s degree in less than two years. Not only do community college students benefit from having more support and job placement assistance, they’re also able to immediately put their newfound skills to work as they enter the labor force. This also makes it possible for students to pay off their debt in a shorter amount of time than private college or public university graduates.

Four-Year Schools

In contrast to community colleges, four-year institutions offer a broader range of subjects. The average bachelor’s degree program also features the general courses that are designed to make students well-rounded despite not being directly related to their field of study. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree from the start also means spending four years in a private or public institution, with the first two years spent mostly on general studies. At the end of the program, students often come away with a heavier debt load unless their tuition and fees were covered by scholarships and grants.

The Best of Both Worlds

Applying the credits you earn through community college courses towards a bachelor’s degree program is a smart and financially sensible choice. In most circumstances, you can cut down on your future debt by taking the core classes required by your bachelor’s degree program at a community college. Afterwards, you can transfer your earned credits to a four-year institution and complete the courses directly related to your field of study. The only caveat is making sure the credit for the classes are transferrable to four-year institutions.

Paying for School

When it comes to comparing tuition costs, there is usually no contest between community colleges and four-year institutions. As a community college student, you can expect to pay an average of $2,700 per year. Four-year institutions are far more expensive in comparison, with annual tuition and fees totaling approximately $9,000. The average annual cost of a private four-year college is around $35,000.

Available Resources

Just like the average private college or university, there are plenty of financial aid resources available to community college students. Scholarships and grants are also available for students who meet scholastic or income-contingent guidelines, as well as a variety of federal and private loans. With careful education planning, it’s possible for you to have your college education completely funded by grants and scholarships.

Earning Potential

Earning your associate’s degree gives you an early head start in the workforce, but the eventual difference in income between associate’s and bachelor’s degree holders makes having the latter a better proposition in the long term. According to data gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2009, a person with a bachelor’s degree makes approximately $1,137 per week, while a person with an associate’s degree only makes $726 per week. Although having an associate degree puts you on a vastly better financial footing than merely having a high school diploma or GED, investing the additional time and finances on a bachelor’s degree is beneficial in the long run.

In Conclusion

Education planning is the key to deciding which route you want to take. Community colleges offer an outstanding value if you want specific skills that allow you to jump headfirst into the workforce. Fortunately, having your associate’s degree also gives you the opportunity to build towards a career by completing your bachelor’s degree at a later date. With the right amount of education planning, you can choose the path that’s best for you and capitalize on your new found skills and assets as quickly as possible.

We at provide this and other information pertaining to college education in order to help you make better decisions in regards to your education planning. While community colleges offer a better value in many respects, it is ultimately up to you to decide whether to take advantage of the opportunities they offer. Community colleges offer an excellent opportunity for students to jumpstart their careers by grabbing the credentials they need as quickly as possible.

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