Community college advice

Megan is a freelance writer and editor. She has a bachelor’s degree in professional writing from Brigham Young University—Idaho and has been writing and editing content for newspapers, blogs, websites, essays, and manuscripts since 2008. She is a Seattle native but has seen most of the country as a proud Army wife.

Community colleges are commonly known for benefits such as helping young students discover their interests without paying expensive university tuition and giving nontraditional students a way to further their education without leaving jobs or families. However, community colleges have other advantages that may appeal to even the most ambitious students.

Here are three reasons you should consider community college no matter your current situation:

1. Some high-paying careers require only an associate’s degree.

Bachelor’s degree holders between the ages of 25-32 earned an average of only $45,500 in 2014, so it may be wise to consider career options that put you financially ahead in less time. Community colleges are becoming known as an option for those who want to enter a high-paying career field quickly without unnecessary expense. Dental hygiene, engineering, and diagnostic medical sonography are examples of two-year degrees that put you on the fast track to financial stability. With the world’s medical necessities and ever-changing technology, these careers are always in demand, and you can expect to earn $60-80,000 per year whether you choose the associate’s or bachelor’s option. So if you already have a specific career goal in mind, you may want to see if a community college offers a faster, less-expensive program that yields the same results.

2. You can start working a better job sooner and gain experience for your future career.

Even if your goals don’t involve medical imaging, engineering or another profession that requires only a two-year degree, you can use community college to get a head start on your career while working towards your dream profession. For instance, you can complete a two-year nursing program, transfer to a university, and work as a nurse while you work towards becoming a physician. This allows you to gain experience in the medical field while funding your education. Or you can complete a two-year paralegal program and gain legal experience while you complete your bachelor’s degree and apply to law school.

3. Tuition is immensely cheaper and may soon be free.

For the 21014-2015 academic year, students at in-state public universities paid an average of $9,139 for tuition, while students at private universities spent around $31,231. Average tuition at a community college, however, was only $3,347 for the same academic year.

Furthermore, President Barack Obama announced in January 2015 that he plans to use federal funds to help provide two free years of community college education to students who maintain a 2.5 GPA regardless of whether they have completed high school. This plan complements programs, such as the newly introduced “Tennessee Promise,” some states already have in place. The start date of Obama’s plan is unclear, but this is something to keep in mind if you are debating between community colleges and universities.

Universities may generally have more to offer by way of sports, social organizations, and academic programs, and therefore, community college may not fit with every student’s goals. However, for those looking to save money, quickly enter the workforce, or jumpstart a future career, community college may be the perfect option.

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