Let’s Take a Moment to Appreciate Community Colleges

Yes, let’s take a moment to appreciate community colleges. There are a wide variety of perceptions when it comes to community college. When I was in high school, students often referred to community college as the 13th grade. “It’s not real college”, is the common phrase that was uttered as students belittle the educational institution. The general perception back then was that community college was and will always be a students last choice, and there are still plenty of people that believe that to this today. By in large, I think that we’re all just used to seeing community colleges lampooned and spoofed on television, radio, and other media outlets.

Even with that said, I must admit that I still love to watch old episodes of NBC’s hit show “Community”, which is currently on Netflix. That show lasted for 6 seasons and avid fans still want a movie. The truth is, Dan Harmon, who is the successful writer, producer, actor, and comedian behind that show, based it off of his own experiences at community college. I know, he makes fun of community college, but we should expect that from him because he is a comedian after all. Although, behind all of the jokes, one can clearly see that the influence of educational institution has been intertwined with him on his road to success helping to shape his creativity.

You May Be Surprised

Believe it or not, for some, community college is the first choice, and it is also viewed as the more economical choice. For those individuals, community college can also provide a better financial return for their educational investment. Below is a chart that shows the average tuition fees between 2019 – 2020. The information is from the USNEWS website. The chart depicts average fees for in state public schools, out of state public schools, and private schools. 

These numbers do not factor in scholarships and grants, and the totals can change based on either of those things. The reality is that these numbers can still represent a lot of money to someone out there who may be looking to enroll into a university. Now, lets compare those numbers with the average tuition at a two year community college. According to an article in  CNBC , “tuition at a community college in 2019 was $3660 a year on average”. This is also not factoring in any scholarships and grants. 

Consider Your ROI

One thing to always consider when thinking about your college education is the return on your investment. Community colleges allow anyone to complete their first two years of college before transferring to a university at a fraction of the cost. In reality, that has always been a smart decision when considering the current economy, and the overall rising cost of tuition. For those individuals who do decide to go to a community college before transferring to a university, they are indeed saving money.




 

The Reality of Tuition Inflation & The Pitfalls of Debt

It doesn’t look like tuition rates are going down anytime soon. Listed below is graph from Chartr, which sourced it’s information from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The graph compares tuition Inflation rates with overall inflation rates, in the U.S.

There are plenty of directions to go in with this post, but I’m going to attempt to shorten this up a little bit. The main thing that I would like to stress to any readers planning on attending college is to really consider your return on investment in regards to your educational future. You should definitely study topics that you enjoy but in doing so, seriously consider the earning potential of the degree that you’re pursuing versus the overall cost to obtain it. There are plenty of people out there who are currently underneath a mountain of debt because they may have failed to take this into consideration. You can easily find multiple post about student loan horror stories on almost any Reddit forum that discusses debt.

I said that I’m going to wrap this up but let’s throw one more chart it here. Sure, the chart below does not go to 2020, but you can still get the picture. I do not have a chart for 2020 to show you, but I can tell you that student debt has continued to climb over time. This chart is from a 2018 Bloomberg article titled, “The Student Loan Debt Crisis Is About to Get Worse”.

There is no doubt that a big name prestigious school with a strong alumni association looks good on a resume. On the other hand, is it worth it to you, to possibly spend $40-50k in expenses each year at a university for a degree that nets an average pay of $55,000 a year? In that scenario, after paying rent, car payments, and household expenses, how long do you think it will take for you to pay off the rest of a possible loan? What city do you live in? What city do you want to live in? What is the cost of living there, and what are the tax rates? All of this can come at someone pretty fast. Given all of the scenarios above, along with the current economy, and covid-19, one can easily see how tough it is for young adults trying to get on their feet during this time. According to the Pew Research Center, “52% of young adults in the U.S. are living with their parents”. To be fair, the article from the Pew Research Center mentions nothing about community colleges, the university system, or debt, but it is an interesting read. Right or wrong, I’m obviously choosing to interject my own opinions into this blog post regarding correlations between tuition inflation outpacing overall inflation, a growing student debt crisis, a down economy, and a pandemic. That is on me, and the sources are mutually exclusive. If you are interested in the Pew research article, I’ve listed it here with it’s title,   “A majority of young adults in the U.S. live with their parents for the first time since the Great Depression”.

Transferring

Remember anyone can still go to that big name school if they choose to after completing two years of community college. In California for example, community colleges offer programs like “ TAG ” which stands for Transfer Admittance Guarantee. With TAG you’re basically guaranteed a spot at the school of your choice. They also have sites like assist.org where anyone can map out their path from community college to the university of their choosing. I am sure similar programs exist all across the country.

Conclusion

Given all of the research shown, I can totally understand how some people choose community college as their first option. I could also provide a list of many other benefits to a community college education for avid lifetime learners, but we’re going to stop here. In the end no one is going to look down on you for starting your higher educational journey at a community college. Later, if for some reason you’re embarrassed about your community college education, you can leave it off of your resume after you’ve transferred, and graduated from that prestigious university that everyone talks about. By that time no one will care. So, let’s give a shout out to community colleges everywhere that continue to help provide pathways towards brighter futures. Hey, if it was good enough for Steve Jobs it can’t be that bad.