How much can I save by going to community college?

In 1959, a younger Air Drive veteran moved to Los Angeles to interrupt into the leisure trade. He took a job as a clerk at Los Angeles Metropolis School so he might save for costly performing classes at Pasadena Playhouse.

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Studying of his plans, a colleague at LACC reminded him that courses there have been free or practically free, so why pay extra? So the younger man enrolled in Theatre 101, 102, and the category that will change his life: Speech. 

His title was Morgan Freeman, and he went on to win an Oscar in 2004 and play God twice, crediting his community college experience as a launching pad. 

Regardless that his colleague’s recommendation is now 60 years outdated, it nonetheless rings true right now; why pay extra? In any case, tuition at public and private non-profit universities has skyrocketed 50% to 65% since 2000 adjusting for inflation, whereas the worth for group faculty has hardly budged. 

For the 2018-2019 faculty yr, the typical value of annual tuition at group faculty was round $3,700. Nonetheless, the “common” right here doesn’t fairly inform the entire story. 

First, 24 out of fifty states supply tuition-free group schools. For those who reside within the north, on the west coast, or within the higher midwest you’re most likely in luck

Subsequent, states that do cost tuition for group schools have a tendency to supply beneficiant grants and tax advantages to most college students. For a conservative estimate, plan to pay round $5,000 per yr or much less for group faculty.

Nonetheless, don’t overlook to issue room and board into your price range. Relying on the place you select to reside and study, room and board alone may be effectively over $10,000 for the yr. 

Of their 2018-2019 Pricing Trends Report, School Board provides a reasonably clear image of how a lot it can save you by going to group faculty versus a public, or personal, four-year faculty. 

I did some math and created a desk of how a lot you can save when you go to group faculty on your bachelor’s diploma as an alternative of a public or personal four-year establishment (sure, group schools supply bachelor’s levels, too!).

I additionally factored in how a lot you can save when you go for a two-year affiliate diploma at group faculty vs. a four-year bachelor’s diploma in every single place else since a number of people select that choice for the six-figure financial savings. 

  Annual financial savings Whole financial savings on four-year Bachelor’s diploma Whole financial savings – two-year Affiliate’s diploma vs. four-year Bachelor’s diploma
Neighborhood faculty vs. public
four-year in-state
$9,230 $36,920 $62,360
Neighborhood faculty vs. public four-year out-of-state $25,610 $102,440 $127,880
Neighborhood faculty vs. personal four-year $37,150 $148,600 $174,040

As you possibly can plainly see, the quantity you’ll save by going to group faculty versus a standard four-year establishment is staggering. Perhaps that’s why my pop used to joke that I ought to drive a model new Aston Martin to group faculty and lower your expenses over going to a four-year as I did. 

Except for being publicly funded, the #1 cause group faculty is so reasonably priced is low overhead. 

Neighborhood schools are, usually talking, lean operations. Most of them lack big campuses, fancy dorms, and sports activities groups that make faculty really feel like, effectively, faculty. Nonetheless, because of not having to preserve all that infrastructure, group schools can afford to cost a lot, a lot much less. 

Plus, since they’re typically non-residential, group schools enable college students to reside wherever, with whomever they need. Residing with mother and pa when you get your affiliate diploma could preclude you from residing out your Van Wilder fantasies, however it’ll prevent hundreds by commencement. 

In contrast, many four-year establishments require college students to reside on campus for his or her freshman yr, and in some circumstances, even by means of junior or senior yr. Worse nonetheless, the price of sharing a tiny dorm with a roommate may be equally as costly as having an area residence all to your self. 

So between low overhead and versatile housing, group schools can afford to cost considerably much less for tuition than huge four-year establishments. In a method, I view group faculty because the “store-bought model” of school. Certain, it lacks the flamboyant packaging and model recognition, however beneath, it’s an analogous product for a fraction of the worth. 

Nonetheless, in the case of your diploma, some say that model recognition nonetheless issues. 

CNN Money did an entire story on how a lot you possibly can earn with a two-year diploma from group faculty versus a four-year diploma from a standard faculty or college, and their findings have been fairly wild. 

In Tennessee and Virginia, graduates with a two-year affiliate diploma from group faculty earn, on common, a number of thousand extra than holders of bachelor’s levels. 

That’s as a result of there are too many graduates with generalized bachelor’s levels and never sufficient with specialised affiliate levels. The American workforce is ravenous for job candidates with so-called “center abilities” supplied by affiliate levels; “lab technicians, lecturers in early childhood applications, laptop engineers, draftsmen, radiation therapists, paralegals, and machinists” are all high-paying roles that solely require a two-year diploma. 

The truth is, listed here are the highest 10 highest-paying roles that solely require an affiliate diploma based on Forbes. The listing is from 2012, however it ought to a minimum of serve for instance the financial worth of a two-year diploma. 

Position Median wage
Air Site visitors Controller $108,040
Building Supervisor $83,860
Radiation Therapist $74,980
Nuclear Medication Technologist $68,560
Dental Hygienist $68,250
Nuclear Technician $68,090
Registered Nurse $64,690
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers $64,380
Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians $58,080
Electrical and Electrical Engineering $56,040

Supply: Forbes

Unsurprisingly these are largely STEM roles, however many non-STEM roles in journalism, training, administration, and so on. could solely require a two-year diploma. To search out out, google “[your industry] affiliate diploma earnings” and see what yow will discover.

It’s price contemplating additionally that graduates of two-year levels have two huge inherent benefits over grads with a bachelor’s diploma. First, they’ll graduate with magnitudes much less debt. Second, they will start work two years sooner. 

Within the quick time period, group faculty grads can earn related, even larger salaries than their four-year rivals. Over the course of a whole profession, nonetheless, the researchers discovered that two-year grads earn $500,000 greater than highschool graduates however $500,000 much less than four-year grads. 

The underlying concept is {that a} bachelor’s diploma is the important thing to larger administration roles, so many group faculty graduates will return to highschool in some unspecified time in the future of their profession to safe their four-year diploma. 

Learn extra: Should You Go Back To School As An Adult?

Let’s put every part collectively. What are the clear benefits of attending group faculty versus a standard four-year public or personal college?

Price financial savings

The largest benefit of attending group faculty is the staggering value financial savings. Even when you’re getting in-state tuition at your native college, you’ll find yourself saving $60,000 over 4 years when you get your bachelor’s at group faculty as an alternative. 

For those who go for group faculty over your dream personal college, you can prevent and your loved ones effectively over $150,000, not accounting for curiosity owed to Sallie Mae. 

Two-year levels

Neighborhood schools supply two-year affiliate levels which might be magnitudes cheaper than four-year bachelor’s levels and can allow you to enter the workforce sooner. With a two-year diploma, you’ll graduate sooner, with considerably much less debt (if any), and can be capable to start incomes a full-time revenue twice as quick. 

Marketability and employment prospects

In keeping with USA Today, employment progress for graduates with an affiliate diploma is “surging.” Throughout Q1 and Q2 of 2019, employment for grads with an affiliate diploma or some faculty elevated 578,000, in comparison with simply 314,000 for People with bachelor’s levels. 

Though the American job market is screaming for extra group faculty grads, most college students are nonetheless defaulting to four-year applications. That signifies that when you get an affiliate diploma, not solely will you save gobs of cash, however you’ll have much less competitors within the job market as effectively. 

Learn extra: 25 High-Paying Careers That Don’t Require A College Degree

Versatile housing

4-year establishments typically require college students to reside on-campus and buy a meal plan, neither of which comes low-cost. On common, these college students can pay between $44,000 and $48,000 in room and board bills alone over 4 years. 

In contrast, group schools are non-residential, which means college students commute to and from campus from their very own place. You’ll be able to reside with a pal, get a mortgage, or just choose to reside along with your dad and mom when you attend group faculty, saving tens of hundreds on hire within the course of (supplied your people give you a free trip!). 

Versatile studying

Particular person courses are far cheaper at group schools than at four-year establishments, which means you possibly can study a brand new language, swap majors, or just take a semester off with out a main affect in your private funds. 

Plus, whereas most four-year establishments usually function on a nine-five schedule, group schools have a tendency to supply night time courses to make life simpler for college kids with jobs (or youngsters). 

Lack of campus life

One of many main disadvantages of attending group faculty is that some college students really feel like they’re lacking out on the standard faculty expertise.

As a graduate of a four-year program, I completely might’ve gone with out the loud sports activities video games, loopy events, and total debauchery. Nonetheless, I additionally joined numerous golf equipment, turned a radio DJ, and had hundreds of conversations with attention-grabbing individuals throughout my 4 years: all experiences I could not have had, a minimum of to the identical extent, at group faculty. 

There’s one thing particular in regards to the conventional American faculty expertise that’s laborious to place into phrases. It’s completely not definitely worth the value distinction between a two-year and a four-year diploma, however it’s price mentioning as a result of it’s one thing that a number of group faculty college students reportedly miss. 

Low commencement price

Neighborhood schools have a considerably decrease commencement price in comparison with four-year establishments. In keeping with the Hechinger Report, solely about 4 in 10 group faculty enrollees graduate inside six years, and a full quarter of those that begin within the fall don’t return for the spring semester. 

It’s laborious to exactly quantify why commencement charges at group schools are so low, however there are some in style theories. Many specialists level to the dearth of campus life; with out a social community of pals going by means of the identical courses and experiences as you’re, it may be laborious to remain targeted and motivated. Others level to the truth that many enrollees in two-year levels are first-generation faculty college students and lack the steerage or familial help to get by means of faculty.

Lastly, for a lot of, it might merely be a monetary challenge. Regardless that group faculty is comparatively reasonably priced, hundreds per yr continues to be laborious on the price range. 

Restricted choices for courses or levels

In comparison with a large four-year establishment with an undergrad enrollment within the tens of hundreds, your local people faculty could have considerably fewer choices for courses and affiliate/bachelor’s levels. 

Statistically, you’ll most likely swap majors a minimum of as soon as in faculty. So even when you’re decided to be a nurse, and your local people faculty has a wonderful nursing program, you may wish to be certain that they provide your second and third selections, additionally. 

Lack of networking

There’s a standard saying that whenever you pay six figures for a four-year diploma you’re probably not paying for an training; you’re paying for entry to that college’s professors and networking. 

It’s extraordinarily subjective whether or not the standard of training varies between group faculty and four-year faculty. What’s inescapably true, nonetheless, is that big-name firms and educators might be interested in big-name faculties. If you wish to study your commerce from a widely known trade knowledgeable or celebrated researcher in your subject, you’re extra more likely to have that choice at a four-year establishment. 

Moreover, when you’re in search of a generalized, entry-level position inside a Fortune 500 firm like Bain & Co. or Google, your likelihood is higher with a four-year diploma. 

You could want a four-year diploma for a promotion

On that observe, it’s price reiterating that over the course of a 40-year profession, holders of a four-year diploma will make $500,000 greater than holders of a two-year diploma. That’s as a result of many higher administration positions would require a bachelor’s diploma. 

You’ll be able to analysis your particular trade or position to seek out out the place you may hit a glass ceiling along with your affiliate diploma. If it’s very early on, you may think about getting an affiliate diploma and transferring credit in the direction of a bachelor’s diploma to save lots of money and time. 

Who ought to (and shouldn’t) think about group faculty? 

Neighborhood faculty is perhaps for you if:

  • You’re trying to graduate with little-to-no debt. For those who’ve exhausted scholarship choices and are going through down a six-figure mortgage to attend a four-year faculty, chances are you’ll wish to strongly think about an affiliate diploma. It’s magnitudes extra reasonably priced within the quick time period, and also you might be able to switch credit later for a full bachelor’s.
  • You’re trying to begin incomes full-time revenue ASAP. You is perhaps trying to repay present debt or just retire early. In both case, a quick technique to begin incomes high-five figures is to graduate with a specialised technical diploma from a group faculty.
  • You’re already considering a “middle-skill” place. If you realize you wish to be an Air Site visitors Controller, Preschool Instructor, or one other position that solely requires a two-year diploma to get began, why waste the additional two years and tens of hundreds of {dollars} on a bachelor’s diploma?
  • You’d prefer to discover your alternatives. If you’re unsure the place to go or what to do after highschool, taking courses at group faculty whereas working part-time is an reasonably priced, low-risk various to committing to a four-year faculty. In my private opinion, it’s additionally far more conducive to your skilled growth.

In contrast, a group faculty may not be for you if:

  • Your chosen profession path requires a bachelor’s diploma or larger. For those who’re sure that you just wish to work for a Large 4 consulting agency or go to med faculty, then a bachelor’s diploma might be a required step. Nonetheless, you may be capable to save a bit on tuition by attending group faculty and transferring credit to a name-brand faculty. Simply be sure you do your analysis!
  • You’re eligible for a scholarship. It’s laborious to compete with a full trip! Practically 3% of undergrads in four-year applications are paying $0 to go to highschool. Your odds of securing a full-ride scholarship are a lot larger when you’re a minority, high-achiever, and/or star athlete. So earlier than committing to group faculty on the premise of decrease value, do some due diligence and gauge your probabilities of securing a full-ride to your dream faculty.
  • You extremely worth the standard faculty expertise. I don’t suppose something I’m about to say is price going $100,000 into debt for, however when you’re searching for a tie-breaker between group faculty and a four-year establishment, you may think about that the latter is extra more likely to supply the “conventional American faculty expertise” with loopy events, frisbees on the quad, and countless alternatives to attach with different college students by means of golf equipment and extracurriculars. 


Whereas group faculty could not be capable to supply some parts of the standard faculty expertise like golf equipment, quads, and TikTok-worthy debauchery, its total worth proposition can’t be ignored. 

A two-year affiliate diploma at your local people faculty can value lower than $10,000 and instantly launch you right into a profession paying within the high-five figures. The credit you earn can also apply in the direction of a four-year diploma at a name-brand college later, saving you tens of hundreds in tuition. Lastly, the flexibleness and low overhead of attending group faculty allows you to study in a low-cost, low-pressure setting. 

For those who’re trying to keep away from debt and launch a profession extra shortly, group faculty is a superb selection. 

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