This lesson is designed to give you a variety of information about the advantages and disadvantages of attending a community college as opposed to beginning your education at a four-year university.
A Money Saver
Finishing high school is a great accomplishment, but there's a lot you have to do before you are finally done and you can begin the next chapter of your life. Not only are you faced with applying to a school, finishing your financial aid application, and writing those scholarship essays but you still have to complete the last semester of school. Maybe you think that a university is the only way to meet your career goals and get a quality education. But have you considered community college? Not only is enrollment easy, but there are lots of positives. Take some time to listen to this lesson and reflect on the advantages and disadvantages of a community college.
You've probably heard a lot about the lower cost of attending a community college. Community college is a fantastic bargain when you compare the tuition of it to the high cost of a four-year university. If you qualify for loans from federal financial aid, this will drastically reduce the amount of money you need to borrow as well. Usually, four-year universities include some additional fees in their tuition, such as facilities and parking fees. If you live on campus, you will pay even more for the dorm and food. Some community colleges don't charge the same fees as universities, and if they do, the fees are lower. If you plan to live at home while going to school, this can translate to even more savings for you!
Keep in mind, however, there are some drawbacks to the low-cost community college. Tuition might be cheaper at a community college and you'll pay less in fees, but you will see that reflected in the form of fewer amenities. The student union may not offer the same services or food options as a bigger university. There may not be a recreation center, if there is, it might not be as expansive. Perhaps the school will not offer a study abroad program or internship opportunities that are commonplace at a four-year university. Consider how important these things are to you when making your decision.
Many community colleges have agreements with local universities guaranteeing transfer of credits. Since a large number of bachelor's degrees have the same basic requirements, called general education, the community college can offer courses that mirror the university classes. The advantage to this is that you will get started on your bachelor's degree but for a lot less in tuition. If you complete your general education courses at the community college, when you transfer you are much closer to your bachelor's degree completion.
Additionally, if your high school career was not stellar and you don't have the grades to go to a university right away, at a community college you get the chance to start over. Getting good grades while taking your general education courses at the community college means you will have an easier time applying to and being accepted by a university. Better yet, some community colleges offer the chance to complete your bachelor's degree while remaining at the community college.
What if your career plan doesn't require a bachelor's degree or you aren't ready to commit to four years of college? The community college can offer the chance to enroll in a training program to meet your needs and get you into the workforce quicker. Getting back to cost, the tuition at the community college for these programs will be a lot less than some of the private vocational schools, and you will receive a quality education in the process.
Despite offering these excellent professional programs at community college, take a note that not all credits from the professional training courses are guaranteed to transfer to a university. For example, if you want to be in the medical field but aren't ready to commit to something long-term, you can complete a certified nursing assistant program. This program allows you to work in the medical field, but should you decide to pursue a degree at a later time, the classes you took for your certificate likely won't transfer to the university. This could mean starting over on your educational journey and spending a lot more money.
The College Experience
Community colleges do not have the sprawling campuses or the huge enrollments found at many four-year universities. Fewer students equal smaller classes. What does a smaller class mean for you? You might have easier access to your professor and more personalized attention from faculty and staff. A smaller campus allows you to get to know your classmates and make stronger bonds for a true community feel. It's likely you will be able to get to know your academic advisors better since their caseload is smaller. Can you imagine the wait in the financial aid office at a large university? While there are always busy times, you can count on less red tape at the community college.
Community college is just that, a college for the community, and the student body is going to represent the population of the local area. A community college caters to a diverse group of people with varying needs, not just the bachelor's degree seeking students. At these schools you'll meet people who are returning to school after a leaving a career, people with kids, professionals working fulltime, and, of course, recent high school graduates. This difference in study body attributes, as well as fewer students, means less of' what is known as 'the college experience.'
There are student activities and clubs at a community college, but they are not as varied and extensive as a bigger university. Since many students might have jobs or families, sticking around campus for activities is not possible. If there are sports, it will be on a smaller scale and perhaps not as exciting as the Big 10 university down the street. Likely, there's no housing available, and if there is, it will be limited. If you're looking for the on-campus experience, you might find yourself leaning towards applying to the university.
After everything I've told you, there is still one more thing to think about. If you plan to transfer, are you committed to completing your general education credits and applying to the university? A lot of students who enter community college with the intention of getting a bachelor's degree leave school before completing their coursework. The statistics also say that students who start at a community college take about 1.5-2 years longer to complete a bachelor's degree than the students who begin at a four-year university. The longer it takes to complete a degree results in an increase of the cost of education. It goes without saying that students who enter a community college with a plan to transfer must have lots of dedication and motivation.
Community college can be a great money saver and offer you a variety of educational opportunities. If you prefer a smaller, more personal feel, you might find that community college is right up your alley. On the other hand, if you need the motivation of people your age striving for the same goal, then take a look at what you need to do to apply to the university. The point is, don't discount the community college just yet - go take a tour of your local community college and see what it has for you.
After this lesson is done, you should be able to understand the positives and negatives of attending a community college versus a 4-year university.