I believe that community college should be the default ‘thing’ to do after high school for most people.
Most people have no idea what they want to do with their life at the ripe age of eighteen. Instead of perusing an expensive university degree and assuming all the associated debt, I think that people should go to community college and pursue a degree there.
Community college is cheap. I can’t speak for every place, but the school I go to (Guilford Technical Community College) is $76 per credit hour. A 60 credit hour degree costs a meager $4650. Add $1500 for textbook costs, transportation, and other costs, and you’re still only at $6000 for a 2 year degree.
Going to community college gives a person time to decide what direction the person wants to go in. Even if someone takes out a loan for the complete amount and even if they end up completing a degree they have no interest in, the person will only be $6k in debt. This degree costs less than tuition for one semester at most universities.
In addition, community college also gives skills to people. People can go to a community college and get a Associate Degree in two years. This makes skills accessible more people. Sure, it’s not a Bachelor’s from big State University, but it’s a degree showing the holder has a set of skills.
Another upside is the ability to easily transfer to a University to complete a Bachelor’s degree. I’m not sure if this happens in every state, my college offers six degrees that any public NC university will accept. This give people that chose community college a route to continue their education. (And save money since they would transfer as a junior.)
Those skills at that low cost is what makes community college a really good decision for a lot of people. I really believe many people would be better served by a community college rather than a university.
Instead of pushing university on all the high school graduates out there, we should push them to community college. The highest performing, motivated graduates should absolutely be encouraged to go to a university. But I’m sure most graduates aren’t super dedicated students that know how they want with their life. Community college gives these students a useful skill for employment, or an avenue to continue to a Bachelor’s, all while costing very little.
Postscript: I also want to mention another path which is going to community college part time while working a part time job. I think spending four years working while completing an Associate’s Degree is a great path that is very doable for the majority of people. Completing the degree is obviously helpful for getting better employment. Working while completing the degree allows the student to gain work experience, which is valuable, even if it’s not in the student’s intended field. Working also allows the student to earn money to offset costs, such as housing and food.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with finishing an Associate’s Degree at age 22. Especially combined with four years of work experience.
Sometimes I think people consider anything less than Bachelor’s at 22 as failure. I have personally thought that and realized how wrong I was. Life is not a race and you are not behind. Your life is about you and you should always look for ways to better yourself.
In May 2017, I graduated from Guilford Technical Community College with an Associate of Science at the age of 25.