Going to Community College: A Cost-Effective Higher Education

The Institute for College Access and Success indicates that in 2015, the average university student graduated with $28,950 in student loan debt. This debt can be a monumental setback for those aiming to eventually buy a home, get married, and start a family.

It’s no question that college can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. If you and your family are leaning towards not paying upward of $50,000 to $100,000 for a college education, fear not. Your local community college may be a great place to start pursuing higher education! Community colleges are not only cost-effective, they also offer a plethora of degree programs and co-curricular options to enhance your career in an affordable manner.

Why Go to a Community College?

Initially, community colleges were made with the intent of providing locals a place to get a cost-friendly education. These days, community colleges are adding a lot more variety of classes for people to choose from, similar to what you might find at a traditional university. The biggest advantage is, the cost remains much lower than that of four-year institutions. To provide some perspective, community college tuition is about half that of the typical four-year college!

If you still have your heart set on a four-year degree, going to community college first can still be beneficial. Plenty of high school graduates nowadays opt to tackle their general education classes at their local community colleges for a fraction of the tuition price, while saving money on room and board by living at home for a bit longer. After earning an Associate’s degree, transferring to a four-year college is always an option to obtain a Bachelor’s degree.

Students who intend to pursue higher education but are not totally sure what career field they want to commit to may also find going to a community college helpful. Hesitant to spend the money going to a four-year college right out of high school without an idea of what you want to do? After taking a few general education classes, people tend to get a better idea of their interests and in turn, a promising potential career path. Attending a community college gives recent high school graduates a chance to grow, learn time management and problem-solving skills, develop self-discipline, and juggle multiple responsibilities that will ultimately help them persevere through a four-year college!

Getting Financial Aid

Contrary to popular belief that community college students are not eligible for financial aid, help is actually available! Making a cost-effective higher education even more affordable sounds awesome, right?

Just like students going to a four-year college, prospective community college students can also file the FAFSA at the beginning of senior year in high school to be considered for the typical federal financial aid programs offered by the government. This form will indicate how much financial aid you’re eligible to receive in grants and loans based on your household income. We love grants because they don’t have to be repaid!

Scholarships are also a fantastic way to fund your education without needing to worry about paying the money back after graduating. You may consider applying for local and national scholarships that you’re eligible for to help offset education expenses. Scholarships may be merit-based or based on specific criteria like age, interests and talents, and ethnic background.

In addition to traditional financial aid options, work-study is an alternative way for students to afford a quality education. Be on a lookout for positions on campus that are classified as work-study jobs if you are interested in going this route. By landing one of these positions, your hourly pay can be used to pay your tuition. Every little bit helps!

Final Word

For students and families looking to keep expenses as low as possible and reduce dependence on student loans, community college can be a perfect choice. High school graduates get the opportunity to discover their passions through a variety of general education classes, ease into college life, and build essential learning strategies before potentially moving onto a more prestigious school, or entering the workforce.

Remember that regardless of what educational path you choose, your success depends on the type of experience you want, and what you make of it. To learn how you can make the most of your time in community college, visit your local community college’s counselor’s office and get more information on available courses, work-study opportunities, financial aid, on-campus organizations and clubs, and more!