Case for Community College

Case for Community College to Save Money

With a master’s and two bachelor’s, education has become an expensive hobby.  In addition to a couple universities, I’ve also been through a couple military trade schools.  All told there are 25 years wrapped up in my head through various academic adventures.  With that background, I would like to make a case for community college.

The choice of schools includes financial, academic and employability considerations.  Each factor must be considered when making the final decision.  So, let’s look at the choices and some of that decision-making process.  Through this article the case for community college will become clearer.

The Financial Consideration

The student debt crisis threatens the financial security of millions of college graduates.  The average debt of 2018 college graduates is $29,800 for the graduates.  To combat the debt for graduate, reduce the overall cost of college.  Considering a bachelor’s degree is generally 120 credit hours this provides an easy unit of measure.   I will use a sample of schools from Kansas. 

School Type Tuition Per Credit Hour Cost Per 15 Hour
Semester
Cost for 60 Credits
Kansas University $336.40 $5046 $20,184
K-State University $312.50 $4687.50 $18,750
Fort Hays University $175.80 $2637.0 $10,548
Newman Private $1,014 $15,193 $60,772
Butler CC $121 $1815 $7,260
Cowley CC $115 $1725 $6,900

A couple items that are worth mentioning.  A typical semester is 15 credit hours.  I have not accounted for a rate increase on the 60 credits.  The 60 credits also represent two years and the typical allowance for transferable credits.  All tuition is based on in state tuition rates and out of the relevant county for the community colleges.  The community college is a 30% savings over the least expensive university.  Clearly the community college is a wise choice for two years.

The Academic Consideration

Any program should be broken into the general education and major credits.  General education credits usually include several courses that are designed to make a student a well-rounded person.  Normally they are unconnected to the focus of your academic pursuit and little personal or professional interest.  The selection never involves the strength of their general education coursework.  The major is another story.  There are significant differences between schools and majors.  The typical major consists of nearly 10-15 courses structured with basic, intermediate and advanced courses.  Often the basic courses in a major provide a general understanding of the field.  A school does not differentiate themselves with the basic courses.  Community colleges provide a way to get the general education courses.  The coursework is comparable at the community college and university.  Provided the credits are transferable, there should be no significant difference.

The Employability Consideration

The goal of further education is to improve employment prospects.  Liberal arts have been advertised for years as providing a well-rounded employee.  Many employers have a hard time connecting the liberal art curriculum to their opening.  Closing the gap between the employers and graduates comes from smaller more agile education facilities.

This consideration is personal.  My first bachelor’s degree is anthropology.  Every potential employer I’ve interviewed with says the discipline is interesting.  My military service opened the door for my first opportunity after college.  While working in that position, I saw anthropology as a negative on my resume, so I started an MBA program.

The Case for Community College

As the title implies, I am in favor of community colleges.  This is not blind faith or an uninformed decision but a reasoned response to overselling the university experience and underwhelming differentiation between programs.  Taking just a two-year period, the price of a university experience amounts to $4,000 minimum and $12,000 for a premier state university.  Those two years will be spent in general education classes with a few basic classes within the major. 

Given the options there are a couple of scenarios.

  • 4 years at a premier state university:  $37,500
  • 4 years at a non-premier state university:  $21,096
  • 2 years each community college/ premier university:  $26,010
  • 2 years each community college/ non-premier university:  $17,448

  The most expensive option is more than twice the price of the least expensive option.  Since the major and school can make a difference, the combination of community college and premier university may make financial sense.  The case for community college is very strong for those continuing their education.

Let’s Hear Your College Story

If you have made the college decision or will be making the college decision, please tell me about it.  What were the factors that weighed your decision?  If you went straight to the university was the decision worth the expense?  Did you miss anything by going to a community college?