Community college gets a bad rap.
Both students and parents often ignore the idea of community college as an end in itself or as a tool for getting a four-year college degree. They think commuity college credits are not valued by prestigious institutions. Or, they worry about how an employer will view two-year schools on a resume.
Years ago, I was one of those parents. I felt community college was simply a scapegoat for those students who couldn’t hack the real world of college. By observing my son’s college path, however, my eyes were opened to its value.
After working at a minimum wage job for one year and living in a small studio apartment, it became clear to my son that he needed a college education. He decided to attend the local community college, and transfer to a four-year college after he had met the basic requirements.
Fortunately, his G.I. Bill and the Pell Grant covered all his tuition, making it possible to attend for two years without incurring any student loan debt. After those two years, he transferred with a 4.0 GPA to a private college. Because of his excellent academic standing in community college, he was able to secure scholarships for these two years as well.
Your student can study at a community college before transferring to another school and still have access to all the same opportunities as every other student.
One caution: Do the research to verify that class credits will transfer to your targeted four-year school. Nothing is worse than taking (and paying for) a class and then discovering the credits don’t count.
Community colleges aren’t just training grounds for technical careers, they are also the first stop for about 4 in 10 of college-bound high school graduates. Here’s two reasons why:
1. Community college could save you money.
With college costs soaring, community college remains one of the most affordable options; in fact, it can save you a bundle. Here’s how:
Tuition is significantly lower than that of traditional colleges and universities.
Students can often live at home, saving on room and board (which averages close to $10,000 a year at colleges).
Students who are working in high school can often keep their same jobs. This income can often go a long way towards helping pay for transportation and college costs.
An associate’s degree can be an affordable way to get your GPA in good enough shape to apply for scholarships to a four-year college
2. Community college teaches important skills.
Gone are the days when masses of young people went to college for a general liberal arts degrees with no specific career focus in mind. With the sagging job market, students have their eyes on promising careers with upward mobility and lucrative salaries. For students looking to enter rapidly growing professions, including many jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, community college can be a viable option. Your community college may also welcome high school students into courses not offered in the local high school
See if community college fits your time and money budget.
Here are some questions for teens to ask to see if a two-year program is the right choice:
Do you lack the academic preparation to succeed right now in a four-year program?
Do you want to get the basics out of the way before taking on a rigorous college course load or to take courses not offered in your local high school?
Are college costs an issue?
Do you need a flexible class schedule to accommodate a full-time job?
Do you need extra attention from instructors and a smaller class environment than at a public four-year university?
Do you feel intimidated by the prospect of attending a four-year college?
- Do you want to pursue a career that can be kicked-off with a degree from a two-year college?
[Looking for more info from the TeenLife Experts? Here are some other options to consider when thinking about college.]