Higher Ed Myth Busters: Why Community College is the right choice for you
In a time when the news headlines are constantly filled with concern over the country’s ballooning student loan crisis, people are starting to second-guess high education. But the fact is that a degree still pays—according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people who go on to college are still employed at a higher rate and make more money than workers with only a high school diploma. That said, the cost of four-year state and private universities continues to skyrocket out of sight, leaving each prospective student with a difficult choice about their future.
There is another answer, a solution that more and more students are taking advantage of these days—community college.
In the past, community college has been overlooked as a viable option, written off as either a cheap knock-off of a real ivy-covered four-year campus or merely a continuation of high school. And most importantly, when they graduate, they’re finding the security and prosperity of a degree-contingent career without having to fork over all of their newfound paycheck to cover student loan debt.
Every day, CCBC students are getting the best return on their higher education investment, while dispelling the myths that surround the stigma of community colleges. Here are some of the other common misconceptions they’re dismissing:
1) Going to any college means paying too much.
There’s a reason people are freaking out about student loan debt. According to U.S. News & World Report, the average cost of annual tuition and fees at a four-year college in the 2018-2019 school year was $35,676 at private schools, $21,629 for out-of-state students at state schools, and $9,716 for state residents. Meanwhile, students at community colleges pay just $3,660—a little over a third of the cheapest four-year scenario.
2) Still, I can’t afford that and community colleges don’t offer financial aid.
Wrong. Many of the same financial aid mechanisms that help students attend a four-year university are available to those at community colleges. That includes the standard FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), Stafford Loans only require students to be enrolled half-time, Perkins and PLUS Loans for students with significant need, and Pell Grants that don’t have to be repaid. Many states offer programs that will provide assistance for community college students who reside in that state. And CCBC also offers scholarships, work-study solutions and payment plans. Sound confusing? Unlike many large and impersonal universities, tight-knit campuses like CCBC have personnel who can work one-on-one with students and their parents and guide them through the nebulous world of financial aid to find the right solution for them.
3) Aren’t community colleges just for vocational and technical jobs?
Not necessarily. Community colleges offer plenty of programs in STEM education, such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These days, according to Monster.com, an associate’s degree can land you any number of jobs from air traffic controller to radiation therapist. Plus, if you decide you want to move on to a four-year degree, community college provides a cost-effective way to start out and class credits that will readily transfer to most state and private schools.
4) Community College is just High School-plus.
Not even close. While many community colleges offer the same personalized attention that high schools did, the courses are of the same level and require the same preparation as any in traditional universities. And the tech at these community colleges is often every bit as advanced, offering plenty of online class options. For instance, CCBC has instituted a new digital textbooks solution, called Cengage Unlimited. The majority of books and course materials are available online for one low fee, ensuring students are prepared for success from the first day of class and saving the cost of traditional textbooks along the way.
5) Community college is only for older students.
It’s true that the structure, schedule, and open enrollment of community colleges is ideal for adults looking to earn a degree later in life. But those same attributes also make places like CCBC a great place for younger students who want to go to school part-time while they work and raise a young family or help pay for their own schooling. The smaller class sizes can be helpful for students who have trouble transitioning from high school, but it can also provide the perfect environment for any student looking to get ahead in life—while also maintaining a positive work-life balance.