What do George Lucas, Amy Tan. Steve Jobs, Guy Fieri and Walt Disney have in common?
I bet you can guess, based on the title of this blog post.
The quick answer is “success.” Each of these men and women is incredibly successful. And build great wealth.
Guess what else they have in common?
They all got their start at a community college.
That’s hard to believe, right? Community college has gotten such a bad rap over the years that kids do everything they can to avoid it. The truth is that it can be a great way to start the college experience. It didn’t slow these successful people down, and it won’t slow your child down, either.
Still not convinced that community college is the way to go when your child graduates high school? Check out some reasons that community college is a great start.
You don’t want your child to be saddled with debt upon graduation, and that makes community college the smart choice. The average annual cost of tuition and fees for the 2017–18 school year was $3,570 for public, in-district community colleges, according to the American Association of Community Colleges. Compare that to $9,970 for public in-state colleges, and you can see that community college offers a huge savings.
In a mere two years, your child can save almost $13,000. The money saved can go toward tuition for the next couple of years of school.
Parents often forget how expensive room and board is at college. The average cost for the 2017–18 school year was $10,800 for public four-year in-state schools, according to CollegeBoard. That’s more than $2,000 more than the average cost at a community college.
Your child can do much more than save $2,000 a year, though. He or she also has the option to live at home while attending community college. That way, your kid could save an extra $10,800 a year. That’s money in the bank you can use to pay for the last two years at a four-year university.
Students like to get individualized attention, but that can be close to impossible at a four-year school. Public schools tend to have large classes, so your child might be one of hundreds sitting in a lecture hall. There’s a good chance the instructor won’t even have a clue who your child is. He or she will just be a name among hundreds of names.
Community college classes tend to be much smaller. Classes are often the same size as they were in high school, so your child can ease into the college experience. He or she will get much-needed individualized attention at a community college. Plus, these colleges tend to offer tutors and other options to help kids who need even more attention.
By the time your child transfers to a four-year college, he or she will be ready to handle the coursework without the extra attention. That means your kid will be positioned for success. You want what’s best for your kid, and community college just might be it.
If you’re still trying to save for a four-year college, your child might have to step in and help. That could mean getting a job during the first couple of years of school. Community colleges offer flexible schedules that include lots of night class options. This makes it much easier for your child to work and go to school. That money earned from working can help your kid pay for the last two years at a four-year college.
When your child walks into a four-year college, he or she will meet with an advisor. The first question asked will be, “What’s your major?”
That’s an incredibly difficult decision for an 18-year-old to make. It’s hard to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life when you just finished high school.
If your child changes the major after a year or two, he or she might have to spend more time in school. That means even more money on tuition.
Attending a community college gives your child the time needed to explore options. He or she will get the general requirements out of the way during community college and then can choose the major. Think about how much easier it will be for your kid to choose a major at 20 as opposed to 18. It’s not just the age, either. After completing the general requirements, your child will also have a better idea of what he or she likes and doesn’t like at the college level.
Your child will get a taste of college at a community college. Many have student groups and offer activities. Then, of course, your child will attend lots of classes. This taste of college life will make it easier for your child to decide on a four-year school. Instead of just choosing a school where his or her friends are going, your child will look at the various opportunities available at the school. It’s easy to make an informed decision on a school when you have time to evaluate your specific wants and needs.
Don’t let the stigma of community college hold your child back. These colleges have changed a lot over the years, and they provide many benefits that you can’t get at a four-year institution. Plus, once your child completes the two-year program, he or she can transfer to a four-year college. Talk to your kid about the possibility of going to a community college and explain the benefits. This could be the best option for your family.
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:
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.
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:
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.