Two-Year College vs. Four-Year College: A Primer

on January 7, 2014

Completing college is seen as a vital necessity for getting ahead in today’s economy. But costs for a four-year college degree keep skyrocketing, putting pressure on families to find ways to trim expenses even when they have college scholarships, grants, and loans available. Enter the two-year college as a option.

Although there are a growing number of fields that can be accessed with a two-year college degree, known as an associate’s degree, these colleges are increasingly being used as a cost-saving measure for those seeking a bachelor’s degree or higher. In fact, spending the first two years of school at a local community college can make a dramatic difference in the college experience in more ways than just lowering tuition fees.

Before making the choice to sink your money, time, and effort into a four-year institution, it might pay to take a look at what community colleges are all about. They have changed since the days when they were simply junior colleges or technical schools. Consider, for example, these aspects of the modern two-year school:

• Save time – More and more employers are accepting graduates with a two-year degree for entry-level positions. This means you can get started on a career faster and with less debt, if any. Careers in the health care industry, law enforcement, computers, mechanics, and other fields are open to those with associate’s degrees. In addition, industries are teaming up with community colleges to provide training for specific job skills they need.

• Save money – Tuition at community colleges tends to be a mere fraction of the first two years at a four-year institution, meaning college loans will cover more costs and may not even be needed. States are making sure that community college credits are completely transferable to state schools as well as a slew of other colleges and universities, both public and private. You can check in advance to be certain your local community college fits with your long-term plans. In addition, you also will be able to save on room and board and transportation costs.

• Upgrade grades – Other students who may want to consider community college as a first stop are those who have a less than stellar academic record from high school. This will give them the opportunity to improve their transcripts before applying to a four-year school. In addition, community college will give students a chance to learn about the way things are done in a college setting while still in familiar territory.

• Learning opportunities – Community colleges often have internship and apprenticeship opportunities that they have arranged with local businesses and organizations. This can allow the student to network for future contacts and learn about their career choice from the inside.

Before taking the college plunge, examine your needs and career goals and see if starting off at a two-year institution could fit into your plans while saving you money.


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