Degree costs make junior college more viable

Whether trying to escape the clutches of their parents, beginning the road to their dream career, or fulfilling their familial obligations — high school seniors everywhere will begin applying to universities in the next couple of months.

The wave of excitement between now and the time acceptance letters come in early next year will be a badge of honor for many, and a bittersweet mix of leaving the nest, new debt and challenges.

In many high schools, advisers and teachers steer students straight from high school into a university. The reasons are numerous: it commits the student into going the whole way to a bachelor’s degree, it immerses the student into a strong networking environment, and it is a catalyst for growth as a whole.

But with university tuition and cost of living more expensive than ever, and the likelihood of a satisfactory-at-best job market and economy, it surely does not hurt to ask whether going straight into a university out of high school is a wise idea.

The Huffington Post published data showing how a “household with $53,000 in outstanding student debt” will be $208,000 poorer over a lifetime. Couple this data with CollegeData’s analysis for a year of tuition, room, board, books and miscellaneous expenses at SF State, and the cost of a degree completed in four years skyrockets to $25,714.

Comparing the University costs to that of a community college are worth noting. The American Association of Community Colleges pegged the average 2012-2013 annual tuition for a community college at $3,130, as opposed to $8,660 for a public university.

An article in Forbes picked apart the benefits and challenges to seeking education at a community college before transferring to a university. “Course content is fairly standard for Math 101 or English 101. Furthermore, the odds are your community college teacher will be as competent, skilled in the classroom and dedicated as a university professor (or teaching assistant). In many instances, your community college instructors will be better.”

With many professors part-timing between different colleges, the odds are very high that you will get the same teacher as at a university — except much cheaper.

Ultimately, if networking, growth opportunities and the university experience are what you seek, then those are still in the future of someone who plans to transfer from a community college.

College is going to cost a lot of money regardless of budgeting, school switching or living at home with the parents. There is no denying the benefits of a college degree, and making that a top goal is first priority before even beginning the financial discussion.

The fact that a college education is totaling up to resemble that of a car loan or mortgage, however, begs more than a quick thought to deciding what route will ultimately benefit a future student.

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  • Good points. However, please don’t use “junior college” in your headline. Community, technical & junior colleges can be collectively called two-year institutions. Or, community colleges is OK.