“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin
When you’re in high school, career counselors motivate you to take the SATs and get yourself enrolled in a good college. Investing in college is worthwhile, especially when we live in times of economic turmoil when even the most talented people are left struggling. So, it would be best if you had educational development to survive and thrive in today’s competitive market. But it’s no secret that tuition fees for these colleges have skyrocketed. Research indicates that millions of Americans have amassed unsustainable college debt to access higher education.
Another concerning reality is that the persistent aggravating condition of economic and racial inequality is making matters worse for these young adults. Further, it’s not just the tuition fees rising; other expenses such as students’ living costs, housing, transportation, and food have also increased. So, how can one achieve economic stability and enjoy a prosperous career after having accumulated backbreaking college debt? Easy – through community colleges.
Community colleges offer the most affordable education options in the country. A person looking to attain good higher education should opt for a community college to complete the general education courses. If they perform well, they can transfer to a 4-year college program in the degree of their choice. You can also proceed to study in a community college, because it’s not only affordable, but you’re also getting a good college education. There are other financial benefits of enrolling in a community college. Today’s detailed discussion showcases the importance of education and how you can achieve a good college education without ending up in backbreaking debt.
We already had a brief discussion about community colleges having lowered costs compared to other schools. A college education seems like a distant dream for someone with a financially struggling background. Research indicates that only 13% of low-income family backgrounds earn a bachelor’s degree in their early 20s, compared to 64% of students from wealthier backgrounds. This is alarming, given that enrollment continues to decline across higher education, especially for those not enrolled in community colleges. However, community colleges reduce the financial burdens placed on students, especially those from poor backgrounds.
Research indicates that community colleges cost about one-third of the tuition fees of four-year public universities. An example reported that Washington residents attending North Seattle College would pay around $4,100 per year, while those attending the University of Washington would pay around $12,000 per year. That’s a huge difference, especially for those from poor financial backgrounds. Further, community colleges also have resources to eliminate financial barriers that students may face during their studies. Other scholarships and need-based financial assistance help them acquire a college education without drowning deep in college debt. He also avoided different expenses, like the room and board fees. The concept of a room and board in college refers to a student housing scheme that includes meals. It can cost a great deal of money to bear those expenses, and you can’t avoid them, because everybody needs food and shelter. He could also pay college fees without taking a single loan. Something worth pondering, no?
Charles Chadwick, the author of the books Chadwick’s College Checklist and Chadwick’s Cultivated Circumstances, shares that his local community college played a vital role in his education. He acquired an associate’s degree and several trade classes/certifications that improved his chances of enrolling in a university of his choice. These trades/certifications were quite beneficial for Charles. He was able to acquire construction experience, which helped in his employment process, and later when he was searching for a house of his own. These community colleges sometimes offer certifications or diplomas that are quite advantageous if you’re looking for environments in different fields.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 75% of the contractors fail to find qualified workers. High school graduates are forced to enter colleges that do not offer such certifications. These trades can make a difference for young adults searching for employment opportunities.
Those opposed to community colleges claim that such colleges are a waste of time and manipulate students into enrolling in a four-year program that may cost them a fortune. However, that’s not the case. If you think about it, you’re getting a two-year degree after high school, which makes your academic portfolio worth being acknowledged. And it’s not a waste of time, given that many jobs in the market require a two-year associate’s degree rather than a four-year bachelor’s degree. So, this can be a great way for you to start your professional journey.
In some cases, community colleges are considered a prerequisite for transfer to a better university program, which might give students more time to figure out their academic options. Since universities typically offer a broader range of degree options in more specialized areas of study, you have to think about what you want. We suggest that you think about your career aspirations before committing to a decision while getting enrolled in a community college.
Another thing you must consider is the experience you’re looking to attain from college, whether a university or a community college. A four-year university program is a viable option if you’re looking to become a medical doctor. But a two-year associate’s degree could also be a good option if you want to enroll in a business degree. Nonetheless, the choice comes down to your career objectives and life goals, and there is no wrong answer here.
The Quality of Education
Gone are the days when community colleges were blamed for reducing the quality of education. Even during the early 2000s, an associate’s degree from a junior college was looked down upon. People generally assumed (and it was true for the most part) that academic standards were lower and the classes weren’t rigorous. However, during the last 15 to 20 years of educational development, community colleges have improved their standard of education.
Students also claim that they learn just as much from a community college as they might from a university. The curriculum is similar to what you might find in a four-year bachelor’s university. Further, professors in a community college must have a master’s or, in some cases, a doctorate in their respective fields. You might indeed study from some inexperienced and younger teachers here and there, but you can also find seasoned veterans in the field. Further, these young teachers are enthusiastic about passing on knowledge to students and are eager to become better teachers. So, if you’re thinking about enrolling in a community college, stop thinking and do it.
Close Proximity to Home
We talked about how Charles Chadwick saved on dorm room expenses by staying close to home and enrolling in a local community college. Not just Charles, several other students saved a fortune by enrolling in a community college and staying in their parent’s place. That’s what community colleges offer to the students. On top of the quality education, community colleges facilitate ease of accessibility and a sense of comfort.
Further, the open-enrollment policy in community colleges allows students to make local friends and not move far away from their homes. These colleges also want to cater to the local audience and improve the number of college grads in the area. Let’s not forget that most students don’t even consider college education, because they cannot afford tuition. So, institutions that care about offering higher education to young adults at affordable prices and convenience are no less than a blessing in disguise.
Imagine that you’re enrolled in an Ivy school and feel stuck. Let’s think about it. You’re enrolled in a good school and chose a program you want to change. But you’ll be surprised that the courses you completed wouldn’t be considered prerequisites for the new major that you’re planning to choose. That’s a lot of money and time lost.
A community college offers you a chance to test the waters that will drastically cost lesser than a four-year degree university. Further, you can also explore different classes and fields to learn which career path appeals to you the most. A community college education can be especially beneficial for students who just graduated high school, because they can achieve personal growth and mature during this time. During this phase, they can learn multitasking and time management skills, which are crucial in different professional settings. Yes, you can learn all these elements in a four-year degree college, perhaps, even better, but other distractions can impact your academic learning.
Easier to Work
Usually, high school graduates work to pay off their tuition fees and handle other expenses. However, enrolling in a four-year college degree can make it difficult to manage your expenses, given the extra social activities and academic pressure. According to Community College Research Center (CCRC), more than 60 percent of community college students work during their studies, and more than 30 percent work more than 30 hours weekly. Further, some students are parents, so they juggle classes, jobs, and full-time parental responsibilities.
Most community colleges understand that the students require flexibility to fulfill their personal needs. So, they offer weekend and night classes, which are hard to find in four-year university education. A community college is a perfect solution if you want to work while in school or take care of your children’s school schedule.
As mentioned before, you can also enroll in your favorite school after an associate’s degree. A report from the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment elaborated that associate degree-holders around $4,640 to $7,000 per year, which helps them pay off for the next degree they are about to pursue. Another perspective is to consider that when you’re working while enrolled in a four-year university, you’re earning a high school graduate income that limits your finances. On the other hand, if you’re earning an associate’s degree, it not only helps you graduate with less debt, but also improves your chances of landing a better job than a high school diploma holder.
Charles Chadwick’s Viewpoint
Charles Chadwick is one of those individuals who thrived by availing community college education, and he’s doing quite well. But now, he wants to help other students make better financial decisions, especially with the looming global recession. He suggests that community college not only allows students different options before choosing the right field, but also helps them learn different skills that are necessary to lead a good life. His books, Chadwick’s College Checklist 2021 and Chadwick’s Cultivated Circumstances 2022, are great guides for those young dreamers concerned about college debt or learning a trade, forcing them not to realize their dreams.
The author shares his experiences earning college degrees from a community college and a traditional university. He also shared funding opportunities and options for paying college costs while taking care of financial responsibilities. So, even if you’re opting to enroll in a four-year university, be prepared for everything.
Community college is a great option for students from weak financial backgrounds who don’t want to depend on student loans and can work and then pay as they go! Further, high school students are generally confused about the career path they wish to take, so this can be a perfect pitstop for them before they enroll in the field or trade of their choice. However, remember that you can only succeed in a community college if you know what kind of experience you’re looking for.
You may miss out on some elements of the “college experience” you always wanted, but you can kickstart your professional and financial journey. However, if you’re dead set on enrolling in a traditional four-year university, ensure you have the financial means to do it and not drown yourself in debt. If not, then start exploring community college options in your area.