Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Is Community College Right for You
Is Community College Right for You Is Community College Right for You? Is Community College Right for You?With the costs of a four-year college education spiraling out of control, community colleges offer a much more affordable alternative for students.For a long time now, thereâs been a pretty specific idea of what the American Dream looks like. You immigrate to America, you work hard, you save enough money to send your kids to college, and then they land themselves squarely in the upper middle class.But dreams change. Or maybe its reality thats changing instead. For one, the traditional four-year college is more expensive than ever and itâs not getting any cheaper. And while graduates will often be stuck with loads of student debt, the sorts of salaries that might allow prompt payment of that debt are getting harder and harder to find.Thatâs why itâs more important than ever to consider different options when it comes to transitioning from high school to the general workforce. One good option to consider? Community college.Why itâs a good ch oice.The experts we spoke to were all pretty enthusiastic about at least considering community college.âCommunity college is a great â" and overlooked â" option for students who want to save on college tuition,â explained Dr. Sean Carton, Chief Strategist at idfive (@idfive). âAccording to the American Association of Community Colleges, the average yearly tuition at a community college is $3,660 as opposed to the average cost of a year at a state university at in-state rates ($10,230).While you can pursue a two-year associateâs degree at a community college and then transfer to a four-year school to get your bachelorâs degree, you donât have to: many people attend community college in order to knock out a substantial chunk of their required general education classes.âBut you donât have to be working towards an (eventual) bachelorâs degree to attend community college. Many community colleges offer two-year vocational programs that lead to employment in medicine (d ental hygienist, registered nurse, MRI technician, etc.), aviation (air traffic controller, avionics technician), the law (paralegal), science (lab technician, geological/petroleum field technician), and other professions that often pay over $50,000 per year.âDr. Carton wasnât the only one to suggest community colleges as an option for either eventually transferring to a four-year school or as an end to itself.âIf high school graduates seek up-to-date occupational/technical certifications, diplomas or degrees, then a nearby, affordable community college is often the best choice they could make,â advised Timothy G. Wiedman. Wiedman is a retired professor of Management Human Resources at Doane University (@DoaneUniversity) and taught at a large community college for fifteen years before that.âFor example, for folks who have mechanical skills and enjoy working with their hands, HVAC training can lead to jobs that pay well and are in demand in many parts of the country. But training for interesting âindoorâ jobs (e.g., pharmacy technicians, veterinary assistants, and many others) is also available. The range of possibilities at larger community colleges would surprise a great many people.âOn the other hand, even if folks are interested in a four-year bachelors degree, investigating one of these two-year colleges can still make sense, since the majority of college-bound students live within commuting distance of a relatively inexpensive community college.âCompleting a two-year transfer program locally while living at home and then transferring to a more expensive four-year school to complete a baccalaureate degree will often save a great deal of money. In most cases, the content of the completed âtransferâ coursework will be nearly identical.Further, the individual attention available to freshmen at a community college is often superior to the attention that students receive in large, 200-student sections of introductory courses taught at many major universities.In addition, lower-level courses at universities are often taught by young graduate students (i.e., teaching assistants) who may have limited teaching experience and are often carrying heavy graduate course-loads that might well be their primary concerns.âBut we hear what youâre saying from the other side of the screen. You want to hear from someone with personal experience with community college. Weâve got you covered!âBrittany and I both choose to go to community college first so I think I can offer some great insight,â recounted Kelan Kline of The Savvy Couple (@TheSavvyCouple). âWhen we were applying to colleges we knew we wanted to save money and understand the actual value of what we were paying for. We both decided to go to community college first to knock out most of our general freshmen prerequisites.âThe biggest driving factor was being able to save money. We both continued to live at home with our parents and commute to school. We picked a college close by with a great reputation for transferring credits to a four-year school. Brittany was able to get through her first two years of college for free with financial aid and I walked away with around $3,000 of student loans.âFull disclosure.If there were no advantages to a four-year college, they probably wouldnât exist. Everyone would just go to community colleges. So what are the hypothetical downsides to community college?Dr. Carton offered some community college cons to consider:âLittle to no âcollege experience.â People often go part time and thereâs usually no campus housing.âRisk of credits not transferring. If you have a school in mind you want to transfer into once youâve finished community college, check with their admissions office first to see what will transfer.âYouâll enter a four-year school as an âoutsiderâ when others in your class are already established and have made friends.âTechnical school credits usually arenât t ransferable to a 4-year school.âOK, now itâs decision time.Decision time.Now you have a sense of the pros and cons to community college. That means itâs time to make your decision. Well, not necessarily right now. But before you go to college.âVisit the school and see what the programs are like at each school,â advised College Counseling Tutor Joann Elliott (@JoannCCTSTL). âCommunity college and trade school may have a shorter time commitment than the four-year, but you might find trade school has less traditional coursework and is more hands-on. The traditional four-year is well suited for those who like school and can dedicate themselves to the rigor and self-discipline that it takes to commit to a four (or more!) year time frame.Every school is different so start early. We started working with my nephew on trying to figure this out at the end of his sophomore year. We visited all types of schools and now as a junior he has a good idea of which option might fit his lea rning style and goals the best.âBut there are choices to consider beyond whether you go to a community college or four-year university. One other possibility is trade school, as Elliot referenced.âTechnical or trade schools are usually private institutions that train students for jobs in what are known as âThe Skilled Trades,â such as plumbing, auto mechanics, electrical, carpentry, etc.,â explained Dr. Carton.âMany technical schools also train students for jobs such as commercial driving, welding, and heavy equipment operation. Trade schools vary in price, but a degree usually will run you around $20-$30,000. This is obviously more expensive than a community college degree but many of the jobs these schools train students for are in high demand.âConsider taking a gap year.You might also find a reason to delay the start of your college career, regardless of which college youâre heading to.âA relatively new concept after high school is that of a gap year,â offered Elliot. âA gap year gives a student the opportunity to figure it out. They might achieve knowing themselves better by a variety of activities including travel abroad, volunteering, taking courses part-time, working, job shadowing, or a mix of all of the above.A couple of tips Id give people is to consider having a well-defined plan and structure to your gap year. Dont just say âIll volunteerâ and then waste your year binging on Netflix and stuffing your face and letting time get away.I also recommend students apply to college when the time is right (in the fall) if they are a high school senior and then defer their enrollment if they decide on a gap year. This way if they decide the gap year isnt for them, they still can attend college with the rest of their peers.Regardless, if you do take a gap year you can bet the college admissions office will ask you how you spent your gap year. Your gap year should be moving you forward, not wasting time. There are plenty of colleges that have structured gap year programs and there are websites to assist people looking for gap year options.âAnd then thereâs another straightforward option.College isnt mandatory.âThere is also always the option to start working,â explained Leslie H. Tayne Esq.(@LeslieHTayneEsq), Founder and Head Attorney at Tayne Law Group (@taynelawgroup). âWhile the number of jobs requiring a college degree continues to grow, there can still be a benefit to taking a job out of high school. You can also use this time to figure out what you enjoy doing and what you are good at doing and then decide to go to school. This can also give you time to save money to go to college.âAt the end of the day, itâs going to be up to you to figure out what option is best for your specific situation. Hopefully, this input will help you choose that option. To learn more about how you can increase your future earning potential, check out these other posts and articles from OppLoans:10 College Majors That Will Get You Paid10 Tips to Help You Score That Big Promotion10 Skills Youâll Need in the Job Market of Tomorrow12 Careers With Great Entry-Level PositionsDo you have a personal finance question youd like us to answer? Let us know! You can find us on Facebook and Twitter. | InstagramContributorsDr. Sean Carton is the Chief Strategist of idfive (@idfive) where he helps clients understand the constantly changing intersections between design, marketing, communication, and technology through creative ideas and beautiful solutions. As the founder of one of Baltimores first web development firms in 1995, Sean is also the founding Dean of Design and Media at Philadelphia University. He has published articles in publications such as Wired, Revolution, Stim, and POV. Seans work for clients has been recognized with numerous awards, including a Webby, One Show, Gold ADDY and the New York Art Directors Club.Joann Elliott (@JoannCCTSTL) is a licensed professional counselor (LPC ) in the state of Missouri. She has over 25 years of experience working with high school and college students as well as young adults. She currently has a private practice, College Counseling Tutoring, LLC, located in St. Louis. You can learn more about her practice and how to make appointments at www.cct-stl.com. Joann is also the author of When to Do What: A Step-by-Step Guide to the College Process available on Amazon.Kelan and Brittany Kline aka The Savvy Couple are two thriving millennials that are daring to live differently. They started their personal finance blog in September 2016 to help others get money $avvy so they can live a frugal and free lifestyle. Brittany is a full-time 4th-grade teacher and Kelan runs The Savvy Couple full-time and works as a digital marketer. You can follow them here: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.Leslie H. Tayne, Esq. (@LeslieHTayneEsq) has nearly 20 yearsâ experience in the practice area of consumer and business financia l debt-related services. Leslie is the founder and head attorney at Tayne Law Group (@taynelawgroup), which specializes in debt relief.After 13 years as a successful operations manager working at two different âFortune 1000â companies, Dr. Timothy G. Wiedman spent the next 28 years in academia teaching college courses in business, management, human resources, and retirement planning. Dr. Wiedman recently took an early retirement from Doane University (@DoaneUniversity), is a member of the Human Resources Group of West Michigan and continues to do annual volunteer work for the SHRM Foundation. He holds two graduate degrees in business and has completed multiple professional certifications.