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Once you start getting your acceptance letters, you're probably considering several factors as you prepare to make a final decision about which college you want to attend. One of the largest considerations you can make is going to come down to finances. No student wants to pick up unnecessary debt, especially if they're not sure how many years it'll take to pay it off. And nobody wants to have to drop out of school, their degree uncompleted, because they can't afford another semester. That's why an increasing number of students are considering the financially conscious option of attending a community college. Here are three reasons why.
Tuition for a community college (also known as a public two-year college) averages just under $3,500 annually, as reported by the College Board. In contrast, the average annual tuition at a public four-year college (often a state school) for in-state students runs around $10,000. For out-of-state-students at that same four-year school, tuition can jump up to around $24,000. Private schools can tack on an additional $10,000.
Even comparing only the two lowest costs, community college is still cheaper by over $5,000 a year on average. That's a great way to start college off on a more affordable note. And making this deal even sweeter is the fact that financial aid is still awarded to a good chunk of students at community colleges.
For many students, convenience is a huge factor in the decision to attend community college. And that is never more applicable than when considering location. With the high number of two-year colleges in the United States, that means they are much more accessible to commuters than larger state or private schools. Therefore, community college can offer those wishing to save the cost of room and board (which is no small fee!) the ability to live at home rather than requiring them to pay for school-provided housing and/or to move.
Many four-year schools require their students to maintain full-time status, which can often mean attending four or more classes a week. Plenty of students are not ready to tackle a completely booked schedule right out of high school. Many will be working their way through college, therefore requiring a lighter course load.
Two-year colleges often offer that flexibility, allowing you to attend part-time instead. That gives you more time in your semester, which you can use as you see fit. Perhaps you'll be taking on a job that can help to pay off ongoing expenses or to save money to put toward a more expensive school later. Maybe you have family obligations that require your attention. Or you could be looking to free up time for internships and other hands-on experiences at your own pace. Whatever the case, a community college is likelier to give you that freedom.
High school graduates (or anyone who has earned a GED) are eligible to attend community college, and it's an option I recommend considering. Not only can it save you money, but it can also offer an acclimation period should you feel you need it before heading off to a four-year institution. For more tips on paying for college (and how to save money while doing it!), check out our books Paying for College and 8 Steps to Paying Less for College. You can also hop over to our YouTube channel, where we post videos regularly to help guide you through anything from tackling an AP Exam to filling out your college applications.
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