Community College, for the Win

AndyB Blogger

24614_Community College_COMM_643px.png


You’ve heard the same song and dance before. Student loan debt is on the rise, and there’s no sign of it stopping anytime soon. With money known to cause stress and debt keeping people from building wealth, what can future undergraduates do about it?


Well, community college might start looking like a pretty good idea.


Why community college?

According to The College Board, more than 40% of U.S. undergraduates attend community college – two-year institutions that lead to associate’s degrees and certificates - with many students going on to complete bachelor’s degrees at four-year schools.


And they’re saving a lot of money along the way.


On average, tuition and fees are around $3,520 per year for in-district students at a public two-year school versus $9,648 for in-state residents at public four-year colleges and $33,479 at private institutions, according to The College Board.


But these undergrads aren’t just saving money. They’re going on to make it too.


College Measures from the American Institutes for Research conducted research on Colorado workers’ earnings. The study showed that a post-secondary education in Colorado led to good jobs with middle-class earnings. “They’re not only doing it with bachelor’s degrees. Those with an associate’s of applied science, for example, make more than $40,000 in median earnings a year after college or about $10,000 more than the state median per capita income,” Mark Schneider, president of College Measures, said in a news release.


Perhaps the greatest benefit to choosing a community college experience lies in the options. If students choose community college at first, they leave the door open for completing a bachelor’s degree or other degree without first taking on the financial risk and long-term student loan debt associated with a more expensive institution. And if they don’t continue their education beyond an associate’s degree or other certificates, that’s OK too. Schneider’s College Measure research is showing good prospects for community college grads.


According to the study, earnings for graduates with certificates in three fields – legal support services; criminal justice and corrections; and allied health diagnostic intervention and treatment professions – are higher than the median earnings of graduates with bachelor’s degrees.


Less stress over debt? It’s good for you

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some of the fastest-growing occupations in the U.S. only require a community college education. That includes occupational therapy assistants and physical therapy assistants whose median pay is near $60,000 per year.


Even though going to college can boost your long-term earning potential, the University of South Carolina found that the simple act of accumulating student loan debt can boost stress or make you feel not so hot. That suggests that limiting how much you spend on college may be the way to go.


Your turn

So should you consider community college? It’s definitely worth a look. Or, you could look to George Lucas, Tom Hanks, author, Amy Tan, and former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona for guidance. Community college seemed to work out well for them.


What are your thoughts about community college? Do you have community college experiences you’d like to tell us about? What about advice for high school grads deciding between two- and four-year schools? Share with us below!