When people think of the whole college experience, they usually think about a traditional four-year college. They think of dorm rooms and fraternity and sorority parties. They think of driving their kids off to school in the fall and having a tearful goodbye and then experiencing empty-nest syndrome. But in terms of affordable college, this is not the best way to go unless your child gets scholarships or grants.
But what many people don’t think about, is whether this is really the best way for their child to start their college careers. There is an alternative that many people dismiss as being “less than” the full four-year university experience and never really give it much thought. That’s the community college.
In the United States, community colleges are usually state-run two-year colleges. They are located in both rural and urban areas. They typically offer a wide variety of programs of study including technical programs as well as university-transfer programs.
Six Reasons Community College is Affordable College
1. The Tuition is Cheaper
In most cases, tuition at community colleges is way less expensive than universities, even state-run universities. Sometimes it’s less than half the cost. And the general education courses are usually the same as the ones offered at the big state university.
2. Your Child Can Live at Home
This is a positive for a couple of reasons. If your child is not emotionally ready to move off to college and live in a dorm, then staying at home for another year or two may be just enough time for them to get to that point. Staying at home also saves money. With no room or board costs, that cost savings can be significant.
3. Classes Transfer to a Four-Year University
Most community colleges offer transfer programs that allow students to take their general education courses at the community college and then transfer those to a four-year university later. These are the same courses the student would take at university, just cheaper. Be sure to check and make sure which classes transfer, because there are some programs at community colleges that are meant to stand alone, and some of those courses won’t transfer.
4. More Time to Decide on a Major
Let’s face it, a lot of kids don’t have any idea what they want to do in life when they are just 18 years old. I know I didn’t. I think I changed my major 3 times. These two years at a community college gives the child time to explore a few different options without it costing a lot of money or making the child fall behind.
5. Online Options
Even if you don’t live near a community college, many community colleges offer at least some of their classes online. Many offer all of their general education courses through that format. That allows the student to live anywhere and attend classes. It also allows students to have jobs and then do their classwork when it’s convenient.
6. Train for a Career
Not all kids want or even need a four-year degree. In addition to transfer programs, community colleges offer lots of specific career programs. These career programs can prepare your child for a career without further education. Some community colleges offer career programs such as veterinary technician, medical assisting, welding, information technology, physical therapy assisting, cosmetology, nursing, and more. Many of these two-year programs are enough for your child to go out into the working world in a short amount of time.
It can be hard to change expectations sometimes. As parents, we want the best for our children. Sometimes we are blinded by what we think should happen rather than actually looking at perfectly reasonable alternatives.
Community college is not the right choice for everyone. But, it’s definitely not a choice to turn your nose up to. Community college is an affordable college choice. Many community college graduates go on to complete bachelors degrees. Some even go on to graduate school and then on to lucrative careers in a number of fields. If your child is facing a significant amount of student loan debt in order to pay for university, at least consider this option. They can still go to university for their last two years and have all the same experiences you have dreamed about for them. It will just cost a lot less.
P.S. Check out our post on affording extracurricular activities when you are broke, if you have kids at home.
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