What’s it like commuting to college? Media portrayals of higher education often focus on the stereotypical aspects of college life—frat parties, late-night study halls, and dorm life, but according to the University of Connecticut, a study done in 2012
found that 51% of students commuted to college.
Many students who commute to college attend a community college, which I mostly focus on in this article. Other students who commute attend a university close by their home, and commute from there. Each presents its own challenges and benefits, and if you’re thinking of doing either, you should ask friends and people around you who have made similar choices.
There is a definite benefit to attending a community college, the first of which is being the cost factor. According to the Community College Review
and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
, the average in-state tuition for community college in the United States is $4,876, while the average price for in-state tuition at a state college was $16,188 in 2015, including board and food costs.
The $11,000 difference is an attractive benefit to commuting to college. As college tuitions rise, the amount of debt new graduates are handed rises too, and community college can be a great way to mitigate that cost. Commuting to a university can also cut costs as well, as you wouldn’t have to pay for a meal plan or a dorm.
But it you commuted to college, where would you live? 77% of these students commuted to college from their parents’ home, while the other 23% have found their own housing. While you live with your parents, your housing costs may not be as high. And renting your own place means a greater flexibility than living in a dorm. Living close to home can mean that you have a system of support when you need it, and living in a place you already know can greatly reduce the stress of your transition.
Attending community college can also be a good way to set your foundation for the beginning of your college career. Attending a community college at a lower cost to get your Associates Degree, and then transferring to a different university can be a great way to get your Bachelor’s degree at a lower cost. If your academic standing wasn’t great in high school, community college can be a great way to turn that around, as well, to make it easier to transfer to a four-year university.
Ty, a freshman attending community college, says that “It is not so stressful, and [the teachers] are a little laid back, but will still help you.”
Commuting to college can isolate you from the college experience in a way that people don’t typically think about. Students who don’t commute are always on campus, and commuting students may not always have the opportunities to engage in the same social activities. Contrary to that, though, Ty says that she “usually meets people from my classes, the café, or when I go to the library.”
Commuting to college may not be the stereotypical college experience, but the benefits are definitely there. Whether you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, or a strong start of your career, community colleges are a great way to begin!