The Benefits of Two- Year Colleges
As the owner and operator of Money Fit Kids, a financial literacy program for second through twelfth grade students, I am often asked my opinion on how to pay for college. The basic mantra of Money Fit Kids is that we do not promote using student loans to pay for your education. We talk to our children- and their parents- about the plethora of ways they can pay for school without going into debt. One of the most popular ways is to forego starting at a four-year institution and begin with a two-year school. As I journey further away from my years in college and law school, I can see more clearly the wonderful financial and social benefits that can come from choosing to go to a community or junior college before going to a university. The following are five reasons I tell our Money Fit Kids students and parents why they should consider two-year schools as a viable option.
5 Reasons to Go to a Two-Year School
1. You can earn a terminal degree.
Going to a community or a junior college offers you the chance to earn a degree in two years instead of four. Having a terminal degree could give you an early leg up in the job market. If you decide that two years is enough, you will have earned a degree that will help you be considered over non-degreed candidates. You will also gain a few years of experience over those who are coming from a four-year college. There are many occupations that will put more weight on experience than education. If you decide to continue pursuing your education, having a terminal degree makes it for you to find employment if you are seeking to work and go to school in order to cover your educational expenses.
2. You can save money.
A two-year college could save you thousands of dollars over a 4-year institution. Plus, ff you choose to transfer to a four-year university after completing your two-year degree program, the money saved those first two years could be applied to the costs for the university.
3. You can avoid the temptation of going into debt.
If money is an issue, and you do not qualify for aid that does not have to be paid back, it is easy to fallback on student loans. When considering this option, students generally are not looking further than the present moment. They are not thinking forward to the time when the loans will become due. A way to avoid starting your adulthood with big debts is to not pay for school with loans or credit cards. Since four-year colleges tend to cost more than two-year colleges, there is more of a temptation to apply for student loans. As a person with over $100,000 in student loans from my undergraduate and professional degree programs, I highly discourage this course of action.
Most young people going off to college have high hopes and dreams; they assume they will get a good job that will pay for the loans. They can’t fathom the thought of a job not being there after they receive their degree. Therefore, what happens when the easy employment promised by the admissions office does not come? What if a job does come, but it doesn’t cover your current bills much less your student loans? These are questions that are not often considered, but they should be because a job after graduation- or a well-paying one- is not a guarantee.
Moreover, do not find yourself in a situation where you graduate from undergraduate, find yourself unemployed and unable to start re-paying your loans, and decide to go to a post-graduate program so that you can avoid paying the undergraduate loans while paying the even more expensive graduate school loans to cover your post-graduate studies.
Been there, done that, and I have the law degree to prove it.
Take it from someone who made the mistake of not thinking through my decision to get loans, you will not like the consequences of that choice. Due to community and junior colleges often being less than half the amount of a four-year school, it makes it much less likely that you will be tempted to get a student loan to cover your expenses.
If money is an issue, you do not have any scholarships, and you still want to go to a university instead of a community or junior college, talk to your school about its private no-interest tuition, fees, and book loans and installment payment offerings. There is also the option to pursue a work-study position (if you qualify), on-campus employment, or find a job. All of these are better options than taking out a student loan.
4. Provide a wider range of evening classes.
While many colleges and universities now offer on-line options for courses, if you are interested in a mixture of on-line and live classes, community colleges tend to offer a wider range of evening classes. This works well for non-traditional students, working students, and those with families. The flexibility makes working with your schedule less challenging.
5. Give you time to grow.
Starting off at a local community college could help you get acclimated to life as a student and help teach you how to be a responsible adult before you venture too far away from home. It will give you the opportunity to earn credits for your basic degree requirements without having the added pressures that are attached to four-year universities. Sometimes, starting your after post-secondary education at a four-year university is not the answer. Some students need a little more time to mature before they jump into a big university.
If I had it to do over again, the junior college road would have been given much more consideration. What about you? What are your thoughts on going to a two-year school versus a four-year school to begin your post-secondary education?
You may connect with me on Twitter at @NowWithNicole.