Home » Community Colleges – The Bargain For New Students

Community Colleges – The Bargain For New Students

by Nathan Zachary
Community Colleges

A few months ago, Jose and Maria received Bachelor of Science degrees from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

They completed similar courses and participated in similar on-campus activities. The only difference was cost. Jose’s four years of college cost about $32,946, or an average of $8,236 annually.

Maria, on the other hand, paid $55,440 or about $13,860 annually for her four-year college experience. Why the big difference?

The answer is that Jose took courses at the Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC) for two full years before heading off to George Mason’s main campus.

That one decision saved him a ton of money. Maria was eligible to attend NVCC and pay the in-state tuition rate of $87.10 per credit hour, but she chose not to.

Her high school friends and other acquaintances told her she should attend George Mason for the full four years to have a “real college experience.” (Hmm. Ever wonders where high school students get their information.) Although GMU Blackboard login helps the students as you can access references books, articles and study material free of cost that helps to research works.

Jose’s expenses were as follows: 60 semester-hours of credits at NVCC cost $87.10 per credit-hour, or a total of about $5,226. His only other expenses were for books and for bus fare to get to and from the Woodbridge campus from his home. He lived for free with his mom and dad in exchange for cutting the grass in the summer and shoveling snow in the winter.

Jose’s 60 semester-hours of credits (four semesters) transferred fully to George Mason University; thus, he was admitted as a junior. He lived in a double room on campus for $2,000 per semester, and he participated in the meal plan for $1,510 per semester. Textbooks were extra, but Jose made a point of buying used books and selling them promptly at the conclusion of his courses.

Potential students who think (like Maria) that they must attend all four years at a “big name” university are mistaken. Here’s why:

Instruction for first-and second-year students at four-year universities may not be as good as that provided to advanced undergraduates. Senior professors loathe teaching freshmen and sophomores.

For this reason, most of these faculty members give only weekly lectures, supplemented by “discussion groups” headed by graduate students. The discussion leaders are called teaching assistants or “TAs”. In most cases they are only a few years older than their students.

At most community colleges, in contrast, all classes are taught by regular or adjunct faculty members who are older and who have a strong desire to teach the younger students. In fact, many regular and adjunct faculty members have special qualifications in addition to academic degrees. Accounting classes, for example, are generally taught by Certified Public Accountants. Similarly, business law courses are almost always taught by adjunct faculty members who are practicing lawyers.

On-campus activities are, of course, important to all students, but here again community colleges stand out. Freshmen and sophomores can participate in a wide range of activities ranging from language clubs to civic action and political groups. When the students transfer to a four-year institution they can select new activities based on their experiences at the junior college level.

If you are contemplating college in the fall, look carefully at the programs that are available at your local community college. If you are careful in your planning, you will find that your money will go much further, and that the ultimate prize will be the same: a fully accredited bachelor’s degree in the field of your choice.

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