Posts Tagged “affordable colleges”

One of my pet peeves when it comes to the media’s portrayal of education is the all or nothing mentality, and it seems especially ripe given the recent economic upheaval.  I was watching Heroes (one of my favorite shows) this last Monday, and (I promise…no spoilers) in it Claire (Hayden Panettiere) and her father discuss college options.  Should she take on the pressure of an Ivy League or chill out at the local community college?

Obviously, in the fictionalized world of Heroes there are other factors in play, but for the average American high school student a decision between community college and a four-year probably has more to do with the perceived cost of the education.  And while it may seem that community college is the immediate financial solution for a family looking to reduce college costs, in actuality starting a college education at the local jc may end up costing a family more money in the long run.  According to the U.S. Dept of Education, “Students who begin at public 2-year institutions must transfer to another institution in order to complete a 4-year degree. Students who did so took about a year and one-half longer to complete a bachelor’s degree than students who began at public 4-year institutions (71 vs. 55 months), and almost 2 years longer than those who began at private not-for-profit 4-year institutions (50 months).”

So here’s the math:

2 years community college + 3.5 years public/private college= bachelor’s degree

4 years at private college=bachelor’s degree

4.5 years at public college=bachelor’s degree

If your plan is to ultimately transfer to a 4-yr university, you may end up with some immediate savings, but keep in mind that it may take you longer to complete your degree which could mean more money in college fees and tuition and a longer wait until you’re able to earn a full-time salary.

But there is a compromise somewhere between paying full price tuition at a pricey 4-yr and the in-state discount at the local junior college, but like most compromises this one does require a little more effort or, in this case, research.   And a good place to start your research is with the Colleges That Change Lives website.  Founded by Loren Pope, CTCL features some of our countries best but oft-overlooked college campuses at some pretty affordable prices. Another great resource is Lynn O’Shaughnessy’s The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price, which outlines some great strategies for finding good college deals.  There are over 3500 colleges in the U.S., so if you feel like you’re faced with the decision to “go big or go home,” know that there are lot of other options out there that may be more fulfilling and cost-effective in the long run.


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