Statistics from the Labor Department show that people with a college degree have a lower unemployment rate and higher median earnings than people with just a high school education. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center study, there’s a wider earnings gap between college-educated and less-educated Millennials compared with previous generations.
And the benefits extend beyond earnings. According to the study, college-educated Millennials also have lower poverty rates than their less-educated peers and are more likely to be married and less likely to be living in their parent’s home.
But while the value of a college degree isn’t in question, the costs are. Nearly 20 million Americans attend college every year — with close to 12 million borrowing to pay for their education. In total, Americans carry more than $1 trillion in student debt.
If you’re struggling with how to pay for a four-year university, there are options. Besides getting loans, applying for scholarships, and working while in school — you might consider cheaper alternatives, like going to a community college. Community colleges are cheaper and more flexible than universities. Here are a few reasons why attending a community college might be the best choice for you:
Considering that Americans carry more than $1 trillion in student loan debt, it might be wise to save money by attending a community college. If you don’t have the money to pay for for college, didn’t get a scholarship, or don’t want to take out thousands of dollars in loans, attending community college might be your best bet. Community colleges can cost as low as $2,000 to attend each semester. Also, staying local will save you on relocation costs, paying for out-of-state tuition, and help you save money on rent. While money shouldn’t be the only factor that goes into your decision about where to attend school, it is an important one to consider.
2. You’re not sure what you want to major in
It’s perfectly normal for graduating high school seniors to not know what they want to do for the rest of their life. If that’s the case, don’t spend thousands of dollars trying to figure it out by attending an expensive university. Many college students waste a lot of money taking classes for a major they don’t want to pursue. But by going to a community college first, you can save on tuition costs — and maybe even live at home while you figure out what you want to do. Because classes cost less, you can explore to see what you like best — transferring to a university after a couple years.
Going to college right after graduation isn’t the right move for everyone. If you’ve got to work to pay for school, have to take care of family members, or have responsibilities that don’t give you much time, attending community college might be your best option. They offer many night classes and a variety of schedule options.
4. Smaller classes
Classes at a community college are oftentimes smaller than at a large university. In a smaller class, you might have more of an opportunity to interact and connect with a professor — getting assistance when you need it. You won’t just get lost as a face in the crowd, which might happen in a big lecture hall. If you prefer to learn in a more intimate setting, attending a community college might be your best option.
5. You need a second chance
You may not have gotten into your dream school the first time around. Maybe you didn’t do so well with your personal statement or you didn’t do your best in high school. The great thing about community college is that you can improve your GPA and switch to a four-year university after a few years. You can hit a restart button and start taking your education — and future — more seriously while saving on education costs.
While there are drawbacks to attending a community college — less of a campus life, limited curriculum, a lighter workload — it’s a great, and fiscally responsible, option to consider. When making your choice, consider the costs and weigh the pros and cons of your options.
Daryl is a staff writer at MyBankTracker.com who specializes in consumer spending, student finances and debt.