Is Community College the Better Option?

When it came time to pick a college, most of the guidance counselors at my high school pointed students in the direction of the local community college. Like most of my friends, however, I ignored that lady with the mustache and took my pretty little butt to a big, 4-year university. No offense, but I just felt that a four-year program would prove better for me in the long run; I’d get a better education, I’d have more resources, and I’d be more prepared for the job market come graduation.

Plus, well, college campuses are fun and I wanted two extra years of the fun.

But I’m starting to learn that I might have made the wrong choice. At least in terms of the whole “better job” thing. (Yeah, no matter what, there’s nothing more fun than a college campus.) According to some recent studies, community colleges are taking the lead when it comes to a cost, education and future earnings.

Below, a list of surprising facts about community colleges. Warning: you might not want to show this to the parental units paying for your education….

Community College grads make more money:
Yes, even though we four-year college students are spending the big bucks for our education (Sigh. See below), according to Florida Employment data for 2009, community college grads earn an average of $47,708 versus $44,558 for private university grads and $36,552 per year for four-year public university grads. Ouch.

Community College students spend less money:
The average cost per year of a community college is $2,361, while the average cost for a 4-year public college is $7,020. That’s $4,659 that students at community colleges are saving, not counting the cost of living on a college campus, and they are still getting a pay raise of $11,156 over 4-year public college students. Starting to feel a little dizzy?

Community College students keep us safe:
I bet you didn’t know that close to 80% of US firefighters, law enforcement officers, and emergency medical personnel, and 59% of nurses are trained at community colleges.

Community Colleges have notable alumni:
Did you know Billy Crystal, Walt Disney, and Eileen Colling (an NASA astronaut and the first woman Space shuttle commander) all were community college graduates?   What about James Dean, Dustin Hoffman or Arnold Schwarzenegger? Yup, the Governator is a Community College graduate.

You can’t argue with stats like that – Community Colleges are a way for students to save money while still getting a great education. And if you decide you want to further your education, most community colleges have amazing transfer programs to four-year colleges. It’s a great place to get your GRE out-of-the-way, while deciding what you want to focus on. Oh, and for those of you who STILL haven’t gotten the memo…Community College isn’t “just like a vocational school.” Although most schools do offer a variety of vocational career routes, they also offer students a whole lot more, giving them a solid background into the field they wish to work in.

After hyperventilating about my growing student loans and mountains of debt, I have to say, I think these Community College students are on to something. No debt and bigger pay checks? Maybe I should’ve listened to my guidance counselor in high school…

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