Save Money on School: Start at a Community College

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College GraduationFor many parents and students, the cost of college is one of the most daunting expenditures likely to be faced. The cost of a four-year degree keeps rising, and if the student goes on to graduate school, the expenses continue to pile up even higher.

One way to reduce the cost of an education is to start out at a less expensive school. Community colleges offer a number of advantages that can help you get a good start on your education, while costing you less.

Save Money by Attending Community College

There are a number of ways to save money by starting out at a community college. My husband started out at a community college, and then transferred to a four-year school to finish his bachelor’s degree. He now has a graduate degree, and his progression wasn’t once held up by the fact that he started out at a community college. Here some of the ways that you can save money by attending community college:

  • Community college costs less: In many cases, a community college has lower tuition than a four-year school. Additionally, you might be eligible for local scholarships that can help you offset the cost.
  • Save on living expenses by going close to home: My husband saved a lot on room and board by living at home while attending community college. Instead of going to school hours away, stay at home for two years and reap the savings, from groceries, to laundry, to utilities.
  • Boost your GPA for a scholarship: My husband used his time at community college to good effect, making sure he did well in classes. When he was ready to transfer to a four-year school, his GPA helped him land a scholarship. Do well at community college, and you might not have to pay as much when you transfer.
  • Choose an associate degree that pays: In some career fields, an associate degree or professional certification is all you need to get started in your career. I know several people who received an education in a two-year program for radiology, or some other health career. After two years, they were able to start earning money — without the need to spend more money on further education.

With a little planning, it’s possible to save money by attending a community college, and reducing your overall cost of an education.

Choosing Your Courses

You do need to choose courses with care, however. If you plan to transfer to a four-year school, some of your credits may not apply. Actually receiving your associate degree can help you avoid most general classes in some cases, but it’s not guaranteed. Make sure you understand the transfer policy at your four-year school of choice. Keep the course descriptions, since you may need them. My husband used a course description from his community college to substitute for one of his generals — even though the class wasn’t offered at the four-year school.

In the end, it’s best to consider all your options, and choose a path that will give you the best value for your education dollar.

(Photo: ajagendorf25)

{ 6 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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6 Responses to “Save Money on School: Start at a Community College”

  1. I started at a community college, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It ended up that I had all of my basics out of the way (history, english, creative writing, etc) and when I went to the 4 year school all I had were my required courses, and a student can’t take 5 or 6 engineering/technical/math classes a semester. It’s just too much.

  2. I don’t know why more students don’t start at community college. One of the main reasons college is so expensive to attend is because of living expenses like rent, electricity, and water. Traveling to and from home is another biggie. If you can’t afford to pay cash for a 4-year university, stay with your parents,and go to community college.

    I especially like the idea of getting a 2-year degree to earn money. If you want to spring for a bachelors, there’s nothing stopping you, but at least you have a solid income while you’re pursuing a more advanced degree.

  3. Shirley says:

    My daughter started at a community college and then transferred to a university where she worked her way through four more years. It definitely worked well for her both financially and career-wise as she has never lacked for job offerings with a six digit annual salary.

  4. zapeta says:

    I started at community college, and it was a great decision. My expenses were low, tuition was cheap for great quality instruction, and I kept my high school job and made quite a bit of money that I put towards finishing my 4 year degree.

  5. For monetary reasons, I like this idea, but having gone to a 4 year anniversary(and taken 5 years!) I’d say my first two years were my favorite. You live on campus, make most of your friends, etc. I would rather have my son/daughter take a bunch of community college classes in high school so they can graduate in 3 or 4 years 🙂

  6. KDB says:

    The good news is that community college is cheap. The bad news is that you don’t always get the service or sense of community that helps keep you motivated at a 4 year school. But it all depends on the person, and finding the right fit.

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