Weigh the options

Students should attend community colleges before universities

By The Schoolcraft 
Connection Editorial Staff

Since 2000, the average student debt that a four-year college graduate will have to pay back upon graduation has doubled. According to demos.org, the average 2015 graduate has over $35,000 in loans to pay back—the highest amount ever in history. On top of the increasing university and debt costs are increasing interest rates on student loans.

pigIn order for a recent graduate with the average debt of $35,000 and a five percent interest rate to pay back their loan in ten years, they have to pay over $300 every month. With these payments, this will greatly hurt most people’s standard of living.

With four-year college costs steadily rising, students are becoming indebted to the government. So why do many students continue to take the more expensive route by heading to a four-year college or university right after high school graduation?

High school graduates have several different options to earn a certificate, associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. Many parents encourage their kids to attend a university, thinking community college is not as prestigious; however, attending a community college before a university is a financially smart decision. According to collegeview.com, the average cost of tuition and fees at a two-year school is only $3,131, just over one-third of the cost for a year at a four-year public institution, which saves them about $6,000.

Community college is also a nice stepping-stone for adapting from high school to college. Students may assume the jump is simple, but the difference in workload and competencies learned differ significantly and bring challenges for many college freshmen. Smaller class sizes and one-on-one time available with professors at a community college helps better guide students before transferring to a university. Commuting to college also gives students time to change their lifestyle a little at a time, rather than leave their entire life they knew at home for university life, which can be additional stress on students.

What needs to be recognized as well is that a two-year degree or certificate from a community college can qualify students for a number of well-paying jobs. A plastics or welding certificate can open up professions just as worthwhile as those a bachelor’s degree would unlock. Some jobs, such as an air traffic controller or funeral director, only require two years of college. Even if a student is definitely pursuing a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree is a broader degree in which one can fall back on to open doors of opportunity in case plan A (the bachelor’s degree) doesn’t work out.

Community colleges can also be used strictly to stack up requirements before transferring. Most classes transfer, and academic advisors are available to help students decide what classes to take to ensure they will transfer to their university of choice.

On top of community colleges low costs in comparison to universities, the United States government has been recently discussing the possibility of providing it for free.

Whether a recent high school graduate or someone looking to get back into education, community college is the smart choice. Students can rack up pre-requisites or earn a certificate or associate degree in a fraction of the price of a university’s cost. Reduce debt and save your wallets. Your retirement fund will thank you later.

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