Community college. What kind of images does that conjure up in your mind. Does it make you think of people who can’t get into a “real” college? Does is make you think of a crappy education that will hinder your ability to ever make anything of yourself? Unfortunately, to many people community college has a negative connotation. In Zac Bissonette’s book Debt Free U, however, he makes an excellent case for utilizing community colleges as a way to complete college debt free. Sounds like a plan to me!
1) Saves you money!
It is no secret that community colleges cost much less money than four year schools. Here’s the crazy part: when you consider what the average junior college costs along with federal grants and tax benefits awarded to junior college students, the average student only has to come up with about $600 per year to attend a community college! That’s right, $600 per year! Even when factoring in books, transportation costs, and supplies: it’s still only about $2,600. Compare that to about $12,000 total out of pocket costs for an in-state public college. That’s not even mentioning out of state or private college out of pocket costs. So, if you go to community college for your first two years, you are likely to save a total of about $20,000! (that’s not even counting interest payments on student loans you will most likely need to cover the $12,000 per year) I don’t know about your life, but that is a ton of money in my life!
2) Can be a way to get some of your general education courses out of the way.
Let’s face it, most of the time you can’t stand taking gen ed courses. Literature, math, square dancing: you know the classes you have to take even though it has nothing to do with your field of interest. All in the name of making you “well-rounded”, universities require you take a slew of classes that you probably have no interest in. In fact, they may even be subjects that you are not particularly skilled at. To me, the perfect place to take these classes is at a community college. Reality is that you are not going to immerse yourself in these classes. You are probably going to do as little as possible to get by with a good grade. Why not pay somewhere around 1/4 of the cost to complete these classes. You can then move on to a four year college to complete your studies in your particular field of study. I am pretty sure most medical schools, law schools, or future employers are not concerned where you happened to take your American Literature class. If nothing else, take as many summer classes as you can at your community college and you may even graduate a semester or two early (especially if combined with college credit courses in high school).
3) Saves you money!
I realize I have already said this. I just want to look at it from a different perspective. Chances are, you will go to a community college either in your hometown or one very close by. This allows you more of an opportunity to work while taking classes. Sure, you can get a job when you go away to college. In fact, I highly recommend it. It may be difficult finding one though. It’s much more likely for you to find a job in your own community. You will either know people or know people who know people who could use a part-time college student employee. In fact, you may be able to just continue working a job you have had since you were sixteen. Not only will you be able to pay for your first two years of college by working, you will be able to start piling money away to cover the costs of your final two years. Do this, along with achieving a high GPA in your community college classes, and you can very well get out of college with no loans! Most four year colleges have great scholarships for transfer students, especially those with high GPA’s.
Bottom line is that it is possible to graduate college with no student loans. As the saying goes, “where there’s a will there’s a way”. Although community college may not be the ideal choice for most potential students, it is hard to ignore the financial benefits. The potential long term financial benefits from graduating college with no student loans should be enough to get anyone excited. If you desperately just want to go away to experience being away from home: here is my suggestion. Suffer through two more years, then you can transfer to an out of town (in-state) college. After graduating, you can move wherever you want because you will be able to afford to not having to pay $30,000 of student loans back. That beats going away for four years and then having to live with your parents for six years because you’re broke. Think about it!
Photo source: Rail Life