With the dramatically rising costs of tuition, many families are turning towards the financially-savvy decision of starting on the higher education path first at a two-year community college. Many universities, both public and private, have articulation agreements with local community colleges. Therefore, attending a community college for two years before transferring to a four-year institution can save significant amounts of money – while still providing you with an excellent bachelor’s degree from the university of your choice.
According to the College Board, for the 2007 – 2008 school year, community college’s average tuition and fees are $2,360. This is in contrast to $6,185 at a public four-year institution, or $23,712 for a private four-year institution.
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Calculating the specific academic savings
For example, let us calculate the savings if you begin your academic career at Pasadena City College, which has articulation transfer agreements with the public UC campuses and the private University of Southern California.
If you are a resident of California and attend Pasadena City College full-time, which is based upon 12 units, then you have the following annual academic costs:
- Tuition and Fees: $508
- Books and school supplies: $1500
In contrast, at the private University of Southern California, you have the following full-time annual academic costs:
- Tuition and fees: $30,850
- Books: $1,000
At a public, University of California campus, the annual full-time academic costs for a California resident are:
- Tuition and Fees: $8,385
- Books: 1,300
If you attended Pasadena Community College for the first two years, your tuition and books would only cost $4,016. At a public UC, these first two years would have cost $19,370, and at private USC, you would pay $63,700. Therefore, by starting at Pasadena Community College first, you pocket an extra $15,354 in contrast to a public UC, or you save an exorbitant $59,684 over the private school USC!
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Even greater savings when you consider all cost variables
The savings discussed above are strictly calculated based upon tuition, fees, and books. They do not take into consideration the costs of housing, meals, transportation, or interest costs on student loans. When you calculate these other factors, the savings of attending community college first become even greater.
Many students who attend community college have the option of living at home for the first two years, saving significant amounts of money. The average cost of dorm housing at a UC campus or USC is approximately $13,000 per year, and thus, a student attending Pasadena City College who lives at home will pocket an extra $26,000 at the end of the two years. Therefore, in contrast to a student who started freshman year at a public UC campus, after two years, the community college student has now saved an extra $21,354 – or a dramatic $85,684 in comparison to a private USC student.
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The flexibility of community college scheduling, including distance learning and evening courses, allows students to work either part-time or full-time for the first two years of college. In contrast, attending a four-year institution typically involves less flexible class scheduling, which makes having a job more difficult.
By attending a community college for the first two years of your academic career, you not only save tens of thousands, but you can also earn more money to put towards your savings account and future. Considering that the value of a college’s bachelor’s degree is the same for every student, regardless if they started at the institution their freshman year or transferred, attending a community college is a financially savvy decision that can save you tens of thousands of dollars.
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