Is Community College a Good Choice?

With the cost of higher education skyrocketing, many parents are considering something that would be thought radical just a few years ago.

Start out at a two-year community college, save some cash, and get the degree from a four-year college after that.

The sad fact is, you get what you pay for… at least, that’s the case most often.

Not to say there aren’t a number of reputable, well-rounded community colleges here in the U.S.

But there’s a reason community colleges are around 1/10th the price of four-year colleges…

  • A much lower percentage of community college students go on to get their bachelor’s degree
  • There is much less chance to establish those all-important network contacts that often prove the difference between success and failure
  • The quality of the facilities, the professors, and many student peers is sub-par compared with a regular college.

If your child doesn’t finish school – as is common with community college students – then you won’t be thinking about the money you saved, but the money you wasted. An incomplete college career is barely any better than no college at all.

Job prospects will be weaker… job offers lower… and job advancement slower.

Even if a stint at community college merely delays graduation – well, you don’t want to eat into your child’s productive years. Especially since those early years are crucial – they’re the time when your child can afford low-paying (but resume-building) jobs, before a family arrives. They allow him or her to explore before roots take hold.

And, if your child is an immediate success, money saved in the early years is worth much more than money saved at the end of a career, thanks to compound interest.

Still, say your child has no problem graduating in four years. He or she is still hobbled.

Community colleges are more diverse than regular colleges… Students of all ages and walks of life attend.

That’s not always a good thing.

Some students will be there because they couldn’t get in anywhere else – and they slow the classes down. It’s a bit like taking remedial classes instead of AP.

Likewise, because commuting is the norm at community colleges, students don’t get the full experience offered at four-year colleges.

It barely needs mentioning – the extra cost of universities does shine through in the quality of the professors and the facilities. At a four-year college, your student may be exposed to Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, or other great thinkers of high esteem.

Not to mention… the college culture, the shared experiences of a generation of classmates, the opportunity to study abroad – the sorts of things that rarely come through on balance sheets, but often come through when measuring quality of life.

In short, community colleges may be cheap, but they’re not always a bargain. Unless the community college is reputable and has a track record of real achievement with regards to its students, you may just be giving up more than you should. Your child’s salary down the road could be in the balance.

Until next time,

Scott Weingold


Related Articles:

How to Pick the Right College in 2011

How to Guarantee Your Child Gets a Job After College

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What’s the Value of a College Education Today?

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.