As millions of high school graduates embark onward to college within the next few months many families will find themselves having to plod through student loan applications. In a weak job market student loans become increasingly hazardous and student loan debt is harrowing. For example, according to several sources, on May 8th 2012 the total amount of debt from student loans reached the 1 trillion dollar mark (as measured by the student loan debt clock created by Mark Kantrowitz). Clearly I wanted to avoid the financial horrors of student loans. One of my best personal financial moves was to avoid taking out student loans to afford a four year college and instead attend a community college.
There is a stigma attached to attending a community college, for instance in my hometown many referred to community college as “13th grade.” By some standards this statement holds true in the form of lesser quality education materials or insufficiently trained faculty and staff in comparison to a four year college. Although from my personal experience I discovered that, for the most part, the first year of college (be it in community college or a four year college) is relatively similar in that, basic level courses are generally taken. Unless college credits were earned in high school to avoid having to take English 101, History 101, etc. Generally freshman college students will find themselves having to stave off drowsiness and sit through these basic general requirement courses again while having to pay for them this time around.
Although this isn’t always true, but in some cases attending a two year college may make it easier to hold a part time job. For example, in my situation I held a job at a local business practically down the road from my community college. The other major plus of attending a community college was that it cut my tuition in half, with minimal financial aid I completed two years of community college having spent around $8,000 a year so my associates degree was roughly worth $16,000. Had I attended a four year school my tuition may have been $18,000-$23,000 per year (even more had I chosen to dorm). So rather than attending a four year college and spending $36,000-$46,000 in my first two years I cut that in less than half by spending $16,000 for two years of community college.
Of course there are benefits to attending a four year college right out of high school. Several of my friends did so and they are happy with this decision. When it comes right down to it, depending on the financial factors in your family and your own life, community college may not be as worthwhile as a four year college. Of course there will also be those cases of students who must take a student loan out for community college as well, but at least it won’t be as expensive as a four year student loan.
For me personally, attending a community college and avoiding student loans was a cheaper option in comparison to attending a four year college and I still consider it to be my best financial move.