Community College – The Vital Alternative

Community College

If you’re broke, or your child is an under-achiever or totally without radar on his future, or the cost of a 4-year college is simply prohibitive, take a serious look at a community college. Grades and SATs don’t matter. All you need for admission is your checkbook. The costs are much less than either public or private 4-year schools. They account for 1,100 of the more than 4,000 schools in America today. As costs continue to skyrocket, community colleges will become more popular. And rightfully so.

The makeup of community colleges closely resembles the small class sizes, the high degree of personal interaction between students, between students and faculty, and a genuine student motivation that are found at small elite liberal arts colleges. These similarities are a parent’s dream.

As for parents who are distressed about their student’s motivation, Dr Thomas E. Gamble, president of Florida’s Brevard Community College, says “the community college deals effectively with the student malaise of under-achievers.”

A student gave this real-life assessment of the community college experience: “The diversity of the student body, the number of people taking part-time courses, and the lack of residence halls and meal plans (at least at my CC) taught me a lot about self-reliance, money and time management, and removed me from an environment of parties and drinking that would have potentially led me down a path to bad grades and low achievement.” This is what every parent would love to read of their student who’s attending a 4-year college.

Admissions directors of high-profile 4-year colleges hold a near universal opinion of these 2-year schools. “Community colleges,” says an admissions dean at a Connecticut university, “do a fine job of preparing students to go on to higher education.” Instead of being a last resort to higher education, they’re effective gateways to higher level degrees.

From an admissions standpoint, it’s easier to be accepted to a 4-year college as a community college transfer than as a high school senior; 33% of applicants to UC Berkeley were accepted from community colleges compared to 28% from high school applicants.

Miami Dade College, a community college in Florida with a separate honors program for high-achieving students who aren’t ready for the usual 4-year college experience, has agreements with over 50 universities. Nearly half go on to colleges like the University of Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, Cornell, Smith, Yale, and the University of Texas.

The first 2 years of a college education can cost a parent nothing. Here’s how it works: the student commutes to a local community college with tuition and books for about $3,500. Add from $500 to $1,000 in transportation expenses, and the total approximates $4,500 a year. The student takes out a Stafford Loan in the first year for $5,500, which the student pays back, not the parent. Plus, a summer job for 15 weeks, with a take-home pay of only $150, generates $2,250. So, $4,500 is covered by the Stafford’s $5,500 + the student’s $2,250 = $0 out of the parent’s pocket.

In the second year, the student qualifies for more money with a Stafford Loan: $6,500. It’s another year free of costs for mom and dad. Talk about liberation! You’re free of the high costs of college which your friends will pay because they didn’t follow the advice you’re reading now. With a game plan to get a degree from a 4-year college, the first 2 years are free to the parents, and the student can qualify for Stafford loans as a transfer student in the junior and senior years of a state school for $7,500 each year. That’s another $15,000 parents don’t have to pay toward a 4-year degree. In other words, your child can get a 4-year degree from a state school at half the price of other schools, or less. Could this be planet earth’s easiest no-brainer? It gets better.

Here’s the math for a parent’s out-of-pocket costs:
􀁸 1st yr of community college: $0 (Stafford pays up to $5,500 and the
student’s earnings, if any, are extra)
􀁸 2nd yr of community college: $0 (Stafford pays up to $6,500)
􀁸 3rd yr of 4-year state school in the Northeast (most expensive
schools): $17,000 (includes room & board) minus a Stafford Loan
of $7,500 = $9,500 out-of-pocket; the parent pays little or nothing
if the student is commuting.
􀁸 4th yr of 4-year state school in the Northeast: see year 3.

Stafford loans in the 1st year amount to as much as $5,500, and in the 2nd year, $6,500. With a very little income-paying job, your student can easily pay the first 2 years of college. Fast-forward to your total out-of-pocket expenditure for a 4-year state school degree as a campus resident: from $10,000 to $21,000. If your student is commuting in the 3rd and 4th years, the range in costs could be from $5,000 to $10,000. But here’s the mind-blowing secret that allows a parent to pay nothing in the last 2 years:

After reviewing my video on how to cut $42,000 per child in college costs, you’ll connect the dots and discover that you can pay absolutely nothing for your student’s 4-year degree.

This is the best-kept secret about paying for college, revealed for the first time in my book. Now you don’t have to read Ben Kaplan’s How To Go To College Almost For Free, because he says, “Almost.” This secret comes with 2 bonuses: (1) in 2 years, you can graduate with an Associates degree with at least a 2.5 GPA and you’re automatically admitted to an in-state 4-year state school as a junior. States such as Florida, Massachusetts and Wisconsin offer such a program; and (2) proudly you can claim you worked your way through college, made the daily sacrifices that struggling parents make, and demonstrated a maturity, a work ethic, and an achievement that no Harvard graduates can put on their resumes.

You win. And win big.

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