If you're worried that the tuition bills from your dream school could saddle you with several decades' worth of student loan debt, it might be time to consider your options in paying for college. One option could be to follow the “2+2” plan: attend community college for two years, receive your associate's degree, and then transfer to a state university or private college to complete your degree. Your diploma will bear the name of the top school of your choice, and you may spend tens of thousands less than the rest of your cohorts.
If your plans for attending college are less concrete, you haven't started a college savings fund, or you're uncertain what your major should be, community college offers the affordability and flexibility you need to explore and find your footing. You can consider transferring to a more expensive university or college later when and if you decide it's right for you. In either case, here are a few tips for getting the most out of your community college experience.
Make Sure Your Community College of Choice is Transfer-Friendly.Many state schools work closely with community colleges to ensure that students can transfer from one to the other as seamlessly as possible. It's important to make sure you're taking the classes you'll need to fulfill both your community college requirements, and the degree standards for your future college of choice. Have a chat with advisors at the community college you're considering and find out how high their transfer rate is, and what schools students tend to transfer to in quantity.
Find the Right Advisor.If you do intend to transfer to a specific college in two years' time, it's important that you meet with your community college adviser regularly and make them aware of your goals, so they can help you maximize your time and money while attending community college. Wasting time with unnecessary courses won't help you save for college; in fact, it could set you back later financially if you have to take additional courses after you've transferred. Your adviser can help you make sure you're taking as many fully-transferable courses as possible.
Take Advantage of Special Financial Aid Offerings for Transfer Students.There are special financial aid opportunities available exclusively for transfer students coming from community colleges or technical schools. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, for example, offers scholarships of up to $40,000 to 85 different transfer students each year. Your state and future college of choice might also have scholarships or grants available to transfer students. That's free money that will make it much easier for you to save for college.
Don't Delay Finishing Your Degree.
Community colleges usually allow you to pursue a degree at your own pace, but if you exceed twelve semesters of schooling, you become ineligible for further financial assistance from valuable financial aid resources like the Pell Grant. You can find more information about the Pell Grant and other types of need-based federal financial aid at the U.S. Department of Education's Federal Student Aid website.
If you'd like to learn more about making college more affordable, you can find our tips for starting a 529 College Savings Plan, saving money on college textbooks, and more in the Protective Learning Center.