Let’s play a quick game of “Would You Rather?” – A.) graduate high school and go to a four-year university, live in a dorm, and meet a ton of new people for the best years of your life (but potentially go tens of thousands of dollars into debt to do it)? Or b.) stay at home and commute to classes at community college (with little to no debt to show for it)?
This was the choice I was left with as high school graduation approached. Looking at $25,000 to $30,000 a year for my pick of schools made me feel sick, but everyone was doing it, so why shouldn’t I? What other option did I have? I could drain my life savings, take out enough loans to go to my dream school, and spend the next decade or two of my life paying it back, or I could go the cheap route and knock the first two years out at community college. But that was for high school dropouts and people dealing with mid-life crises. (I’ve learned otherwise. But let’s be real, that’s what most people think.)
Fast forward two years. I’ve earned my associate degree, transferred to a full-fledged university to finish out my bachelor’s, and I don’t owe a dime in student loans. Going to community college was the smartest choice I could’ve made. Here’s why:
1. It’s cheap.
Or at least cheaper. According to College Board, you’ll pay an average of $3,440 a year for tuition and fees at a public, in-state two-year college. Go to a public, in-state four-year school, and the average cost nearly triples to $9,410 per year. Thinking about going out-of-state? You’re looking at $23,890/year. And private four-year schools come in at an average yearly cost of $32,410. And remember, this is just tuition. Overwhelmed yet?
In two years, I spent roughly $6,000 on tuition, books, and other fees at community college. That wouldn’t have even covered half of my yearly tuition at the other schools I was looking at. Not too shabby.
2. English 101 is English 101 no matter where you take it.
Yes, many community college instructors come equipped with master’s degrees rather than PhDs, but many universities use graduate students to teach their entry level gen-ed courses, so it’s not like you’re missing out on some secret knowledge that can only be imparted to you by those with doctorates.