Community colleges aren’t what they were 10 years ago. A decade ago, most students thought their only option was a four-year university because that’s what they were told by their counselors, parents and peers. Compared to four-year universities, community colleges provided limited learning options and very little campus life. Now, more than 40% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 attend community college. Here's why.
We know, we know. Everyone thinks this is the biggest, most talked about benefit, and it is. However, it’s not just the greatest benefit because the average tuition and fees at two-year colleges are less than $3,150 a year, according to CollegeBoard
, but because of the flexibility it provides for working students. Essentially, students aren’t just saving money; they’re making
money while attending college too.
The American Association of Community Colleges
reports that almost half of all 2013 high school graduates attending community college hold a part- or full-time job. Community college enables students the flexibility to pursue their career while also fulfilling their higher education goals.
Additionally, community colleges provide a variety of payment plans that allow students to pay while they’re attending school, and in some cases, can pay as much or as little as they like on a monthly basis. This kind of payment opportunity allows students to graduate with little to no debt upon graduation, which is very enticing given that the average amount of debt a student has at graduation is $26,500, according to CollegeBoard
Along with flexibility in working and paying for school, attending a community college also enables students to make a choice in where they live. Nearly every college or university in the country requires first-year students to live in dorms
; however, community colleges do not provide any on-campus housing. With that, students can choose to stay at home, thereby saving even more money, or rent an apartment of their choice.
It should be mentioned here that any perceptions about student life on a community college should be dismissed. For instance, some two-year schools actually have athletic programs so high school athletes can continue to play after college. Additionally, many community colleges allow students to form their own student clubs and organizations, which include but aren’t limited to religious organizations, special interest groups and clubs similar to those at four-year colleges.
Obviously, students attending a two-year school graduate sooner than those at a four-year college or university. With that, they’re joining the workforce and earning real income sooner. This is in large part due to the focused academics that community colleges provide.
While community colleges offer plenty of general courses, they also offer very specialized classes and majors. For instance, if a student enters his or her community college with a desire to major in nursing, they’re able to pursue it immediately and potentially graduate within two years. Other specialized fields that community colleges
provide are construction, medical and dental technician and engineering. At the same time, community colleges provide majors in business administration, liberal arts and education.
Like you would with four-year colleges and universities, test out a community college. Explore their website, walk around campus and talk to students currently attending a two-year school in which you’re interested. You may surprise yourself and find that a community college is the perfect fit for you.