Attending college in the United States is expensive. If you haven’t yet surrendered to this factual inevitability, take a good look at the palm of your right hand and firmly plant your face in it. Whether you plan on working through school, taking out student loans, or enlisting the help of your parental unit, Community College (CC) can be a valuable strategy in minimizing debt and maximizing the cost-effectiveness of your educational investment. Now, slowly remove that sweaty paw from your pallid face, take a deep breath and, in your best Kai Rysdall voice, whisper to yourself, “let’s do the numbers.”
*Statistical Source: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/college-costs/college-costs-faqs
Firstly, let’s take a few moments to appreciate the beautifully refined graphical representation I have installed…
Don’t you just love a good graph? In our modern world (post-modern, dare I say?), in which individuals are swallowed up and spit out by the exponential pace of information flows, isn’t it utterly refreshing to see a clean, simple graph? If only the world were so simple!
Back to the issue at hand: college in America is expensive and attending CC courses can seriously reduce that expense. A typical undergraduate degree consists of 120 credit hours: approximately 40 hours for Core Curriculum, 60 hours for courses within your major, and 20 or so hours for electives. Depending on the University, schools place a maximum limit on the number of hours that can be transferred from a CC: approximately 60 hours.
This means that even if you’re attending a reasonably priced 4 year public University, taking 60 of your credit hours at a CC can save you a whopping $13,200! If you’re attending a private University, you can save as much as $62,760! In other words: utilizing Community College as a strategic resource can save you up to 1.5 years in tuition costs.
Not All Created Equal: Which CC Courses Transfer?
Notice: approximately 40 hours of your mandatory course work are dedicated to Core Curriculum studies. The Core Curriculum is, essentially, a standardized selection of courses that cover “the basics” of higher education. While these course requirements can vary between schools, they tend to consist of the same basic course types. (For an example, check out the Core Curriculum for the University of Houston)
Why do I mention these basic courses? Because these are the courses that are most often eligible for transfer! CCs are acutely aware that most students intend to use their courses for transfer credit. Therefore, many CCs will work with local 4-year Universities to ensure that their credits are transferable. Some schools may partner directly with local Universities and even employ the same professors. Before you enroll in a CC course, it is imperative that you confirm with your school(s) of choice that those credit hours WILL TRANSFER! Otherwise, you will be left with nothing to show for the hard work you completed.
Due to the high prevalence of part-time students, CC’s tend to offer more flexible course options. Night classes, online courses, and dual-credit courses for high schoolers are commonly administered at local CC’s. Do some research and figure out which option best suits your needs and schedule.
Whether it’s reducing costs, increasing value, or squeezing time into your busy schedule, Community College can serve as a valuable asset in the process of earning your degree. Furthermore, CC can act as a strategic intermediate: if you didn’t get into your first-choice school, taking a year of JuCo courses and earning a high GPA can gain you admission. In fact, certain 4-year Universities GUARANTEE admission if you obtain a minimum GPA at a specified JuCo.
Although it may not seem as glamorous as that prestigious, 200 year-old, gold-plated University of your dreams, even Hollywood recognizes the value of JuCo: ever seen the movie Rudy? The true story about a 5’5, 130 pound Junior College transfer who walked on to the Notre Dame football team. Talk about perseverance: Rudy worked a full-time job during the day, served as a human tackling dummy at night, and took a full course load somewhere in between.
To encourage you on your journey, I’ll leave you with a wonderful quote from Rudy’s mentor, the inspirational janitor, Fortune, played by Charles Stanley Dutton:
“In this life, you don’t have to prove nothin’ to nobody but yourself.”
Cue the Rudy theme song and a stream of motivational tears. Now, go prove it to yourself.