The financial reasons for beginning at a community college are compelling. But this isn’t necessarily what’s best for every student. Problems along the way undermine some students’ ability to complete an affordable higher education.
If your student seeks an occupation requiring a bachelor’s degree, he’ll eventually need to transfer to a 4-year college or university, so carefully consider whether he has the academic dedication, drive, and perseverance to get there.
Only 16% of students who begin at community colleges transfer and get bachelor’s degrees. Of course, not all these students want such degrees but, at an age when peer pressure is a big influence on your student, these will be his classmates and friends. They could distract him from his ultimate educational goal.
Course transferability is another problem. Your student will actually lose money whenever she must retake a community college course at a more expensive 4-year school.
She’ll probably be able to transfer some, but not all, community college courses to substitute for “core” courses at your state’s 4-year colleges and universities. Chances are that some of her less community college coursework won’t be accepted by those schools for classes she must complete to earn a specific degree. So before she registers for community college classes, urge her to check this out with that college’s academic advisor or the admissions offices at 4-year institutions to which she may transfer.
If your student has been accepted to another college, consider his scholarship offers that are limited to attending that institution. Most scholarship providers won’t hold their awards until he transfers from a community college. If those offers are large enough, he could actually lose money by not beginning at the school to which they’re tied.
Finally, to really save at a community college, your student will have to exercise spending and borrowing discipline while there. Attending a community college but borrowing to live an expensive lifestyle is a losing proposition. Your student may actually end up taking on more debt than classmates who began and ended at her 4-year college or university.
An affordable college experience isn’t worthwhile unless your student graduates with the degree she wants. Beginning at a community college can work If her eventual goal is a bachelor’s degree, but only if she avoids or overcomes the problems described above.
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College Affordability Solutions can help you conduct an affordability analysis on various paths your student may take to earn a bachelor’s degree. Contact us at (512) 366-5354 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you need such assistance.