3 Reasons To Start At A Community College - Nancy McKenna ––

3 Reasons To Start At A Community College

3 great reasons to start at a community college

Ah, community college.   Sometimes it doesn't get the respect it deserves.  Well, community college shame should be a thing of the past. Smart people are strategically using these inexpensive schools to leverage their way to great degrees.

The truth is that community colleges can provide a great value. Both as a stepping stone, and a chance for the "late bloomers" to mature a bit.

Community colleges have a bad rap - as an extension of high school, a detainee center for those unable to "make it" in a real college, or a daycare center for the kids who didn't take high school seriously enough.

Community college costs vary widely across the country.  They are now even free in some places. While that sounds like a great idea,  I'm not convinced that's true.   The old "unintended consequence" comes into play.  

I lived in California for a long time where community colleges were very inexpensive. What happens is people sign up for classes that may not be seeking a degree.   I remember one colleague whose daughter was at a "junior college" (as community colleges are called in California).  She had a hard time getting the classes she needed.  Being a full-time student was a requirement for staying on her mother's health insurance. So she was stressed.

In general, it can be hard to get in and out of a community college in two years.   I heard other stories of people taking courses at multiple junior colleges to get what they needed.

That being said, community colleges offer a few great ways for your child to start his or her college career:

  1. cost
  2. do-over
  3.  path to top schools


Maybe you forgot to save for college.  Maybe you have enough saved for two years at a really great school.  Maybe you think debt is the devil's .

handiwork.    The cost can vary widely, but it is still pretty darned affordable.


Do Over

Perhaps your child didn't take high school as seriously as he should have.  Perhaps they went off to college with the best of intentions, but weren't quire ready, so came home to their parents' loving home to re-group.

Your child can take this time to really focus on getting their grades up.  Just be sure that they know which courses will transfer.  Don't want to lose any precious time.

Path to Top Schools

Did you know that some states have guaranteed admission to their top public schools? 

Think UC Berkeley, UCLA in California, or William and Mary and University of Virginia.

Here's a look at the cost difference between NOVA and U.Va.

If we drop the numbers into a spreadsheet, as I am wont to do, you can see how the numbers play out.  You can see that the in-state tuition at NoVa (Northern Virginia Community College) - is about $4,700, versus tuition at University of Virginia at $15,800.   This means you'd save about $11,000 per year, more if your student lives at home.  Cha ching!

University of Virginia is a very well-regarded top public school.  Founded by Thomas Jefferson, if you haven't heard.   Did you know they offer a path from community college? That if your child gets a certain GPA they are guaranteed admissions?

There is a VCCS (Virginia Community College System) program whereby if the student gets the appropriate GPA, signs a letter of intent and fulfills other requirements, they are guaranteed admission.

There is a great FAQ on U.Va's site which says that nearly half of the transfer students started at Virginia's community colleges.  They really encourage it!

William and Mary also offers guaranteed admission program.   William and Mary, a "public Ivy" is the college of 3 of our first presidents.  Their website states:

  • “GAA Student” refers to a student who signed and submitted a Letter of Intent to complete a transfer degree from a VCCS College and transfer to William & Mary, and who meets requirements of this agreement.


California offers a similar path from their community colleges.

In California, the UC schools are considered to be the best, particularly Cal Berkeley and UCLA.  As seen on this snapshot from my college database, the acceptance rates are 18% at each, and retention rates a screamingly high 97%.

If we look at UCLA's website, we see that they too offer a path from community college.  It's called the Transfer Alliance Program.

The website further says:

"UCLA is committed to being a transfer-friendly institution. A strong academic preparation and performance make you a more competitive candidate during the admission review process. The average GPA of admitted transfer students is above 3.5, and admitted students have completed most or all major preparatory courses. We give highest priority to applicants from California community colleges and other UC campuses."

UCLA's site also states that almost half of their tudent body started out at a community college.  I personally know a lot of people who took this path.  After all, only the last school shows on your resume.

So, community college - not just for burnouts anymore!    Your child has a chance to graduate from a school they may not have been able to get into as a freshman!   Check your state's top schools to see if they offer a similar plan!

If you are strategic, you may not believe what you can accomplish! 

I leave you with this video from Big Bang Theory:

Question:  Why can't you cheat on a test at community college?

Answer:      Because everyone you can cheat off is also at community college.

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About the Author Nancy McKenna

I'm a personal finance geek. A real estate investor. An accountant, a single mother. And I'm going to get my kids through college without student debt! Will you?

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