How Much Does Community College Cost?

The cost of college is a hot topic in public conversation right now. With costs rising every year, with seemingly no end in sight, students and their families turn to money-saving tips and tricks to make college more affordable. One great trick? Attending community colleges. Community college fees are typically significantly lower than that of any private college—or public colleges, for that matter. So how much does community college cost?

Let’s break it down.

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How Much Does Community College Cost?

According to recent data, the average tuition for attending a private 2-year community college in the United States is $15,100 a year.

However, remember: this is just an average across the entire country. Costs can vary quite a bit depending on the type of school, location, programs available, and more. And attending an in-state community college is going to be cheaper than attending an out-of-state community college! The in-state average is just under $5,000; out-of-state is just over $8,500.

And different data sets come out with different numbers, too. The best way to find out how much community college costs in your area is to reach out to your options!

Is Community College Cheaper than a 4-Year College?

Yes, in most cases, attending a community college is cheaper than a four-year school. However, most community colleges only offer associates.

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How Much Does a Bachelor’s Degree Cost?

For a public 4 year college, for an in-state student, the average cost of tuition and fees came out to $21,035 per year for 2019-2020. At a private 4 year college, it was $32,769. And that’s just for one year.

So yes! Definitely, on average, a community college is going to be significantly cheaper than a 4-year college.

Using the 2+2 Program

As a result, many students instead participate in what is called a 2+2 program. This is the idea of attending a community college first, for two years, to earn your associate’s degree. After you graduate, you can then transfer to a 4-year college. This strategy can potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars!

And It’s More than Just Tuition

It’s pretty straightforward that attending community college for two years will save you a ton on tuition, but students that use the 2+2 method save money in other ways. These individuals usually live with their parents during these two years, so they don’t have to pay a lot, if any, for room and board, utilities, or food.

Questions to Ask Yourself About Community College

Before making the decision of whether or not you should go to a community college first, you should ask yourself a few questions:

Is a Community College the Right Setting for You?

First, you need to consider: will you be happy at a two-year school? Class sizes tend to be smaller. There are groups and clubs, but there may not be much selection. Sports can be pretty limited, as can the gym. And there may be little to no campus life – students are often just going to their class and going home. This isn’t ideal if you’re looking to make friends.

However, there are upsides to it, too. You might have high school friends who are also staying nearby. And the cozy atmosphere of a community college may be right up your alley.

Just like four-year schools, you should tour your community college options. Did you like them? You don’t want to attend a school you absolutely hate!

If you’re on the fence about your options, talk to your high school guidance counselor for some direction.

Do You Want to Stay Close to Home For Two Years?

Moving away to college is a big, yet exciting, step for many students, and with community college, you have to put that off for two years. Now, you shouldn’t put off that decision because you’re afraid of moving away from home – you need to do it sometime! – but it is something to consider.

There’s also the question of: will your parents let you stay home during this time? Some, when their kids go off to college, downsize to a smaller home and don’t have the room for extended stays from their children. Others may simply want you to have the experience of dorm life. And some parents will also expect you to pay rent.

You will need to have a conversation with your parents, guardians, or other loved ones about your living arrangements and what will be required of you before you simply decide to just stay.

Will Your Credits Transfer?

This is a big one – and for some, no other questions will matter. In order for the 2+2 method to work, your community college credits have to transfer to your four-year college. If they don’t, you’re just starting from scratch.

Talk to the admissions department at your community college and your intended future schools. Ask about their transfer programs, what classes will and won’t transfer, and what you can expect in two years. Some intended majors also have stringent class requirements that you may not be able to complete in two years at the four-year college.

Asking these questions now will help you avoid wasting time, potentially even years.

Is Community College Worth it for You?

There are a lot of myths surrounding community colleges. “They’re not quality.” “They won’t give you good connections.” But they’re just myths. Sure, there are pros and cons as with any decision. However, for many, the benefits of significant savings are worth it.

While community college and living at home may not sound like the most exciting option, you might just be relieved you chose this path when you graduate and are not burdened under a mountain of debt like your peers. Whatever you decide, though, it deserves careful consideration.

Thinking about paying for college, whether for a 2-year or a 4-year school, can be stressful. Having a plan for your finances is a must – and scholarships can help. Use College Raptor’s FREE Scholarship Search tool to find the awards you qualify for and easily apply.


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