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I Can't Afford College: What to do When You Can't Afford School

Updated on March 30, 2019

When You Can't Afford to go to College- What to Do?

There's no college fund for you. Your part-time job isn't going to cut it. Or your full-time job is barely enough for you to get by. It seems that the American idea of "going to college" isn't going to be an option for you, even though you have the ability to succeed.

But are you really sure? When you can't afford to go to a four-year college, are you really considering all your options? Before you resort to undesirable methods that could put you into a bad financial situation, have you thought about community college, also known as junior college? This path, one that may not appear as glamorous as the typical four-year school "college experience" shown in movies and TV, can help get you on the path of college education, if it's your goal to learn.

Myths About Community College

Before you dismiss this option, you should know that there are some common myths about community college. Take a look at the truth about community college. It could be the way you can afford college after all.

Myth #1: Community college is for people who can’t get in somewhere else.

If you’ve heard that “Community College is 13th grade,” there’s an explanation. As state-funded institutions, community colleges are known for open admittance policies, meaning that there is usually no minimum ACT or SAT score required to get in and sign up for classes. They typically offer:

  • Cheap tuition rates and financial aid from the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
  • Evening, weekend and online class availability
  • The ability to transfer your credits to a four-year school, if you want to complete a Bachelor’s degree
  • Co-ops or internships to give you real-world experience
  • The freedom to choose your major, just as you would at a four-year school

Hartford Hall is part of Westchester Community College, a network of 30 community colleges connected to SUNY.
Hartford Hall is part of Westchester Community College, a network of 30 community colleges connected to SUNY. | Source

Myth #2: Community college isn’t the same as a university.

It is true that the community college experience is different.

  • Class sizes are smaller which can mean more attention from instructors.
  • There are no dorms, which means tuition funds aren't spent on the upkeep of residence halls.
  • The student body is more diverse, with people of all ages and life experiences.
  • If there isn’t an extracurricular activity that interests you, you can start one, just as you could at a four-year school.

What's the most appealing aspect of community colleges?

See results

Is the price tag worth it?

When considering which school to attend, consider the cost of tuition that you're paying as well as how much you expect to make upon graduation.

According to The Institute of Education Sciences, students in the 2011 - 2012 school year paid an average of $14,300 at public universities.

How important is it to make sure you can manage the cost of attending college? reported in May of 2014 that "...roughly 8.5 percent of college graduates between the ages of 21 and 24 were unemployed...roughly 44 percent of recent graduates meaning those ages 22 to 27 with a B.A. or higher—were in a job that did not technically demand a bachelor’s degree."

Working in such jobs and earning such salaries, can college grads manage their debts and pay for things like rent or a new car? These are questions to be asked.

Before making your final decision on where to attend school, consider the financial commitment you're making and how it will impact your future.

Bellevue College, near Seattle, Washington, was established in 1966.
Bellevue College, near Seattle, Washington, was established in 1966. | Source

Myth #3: I want to go to a real school. I’ll be behind if I go to a community college.

By “real school”, do you mean a four-year college that costs twice as much?

  • If your goal is to get a Bachelor’s degree, you can transfer your community college credits to a four-year school. However, it is wise to contact the Admissions office of the four-year school where you’d like to ultimately attend. Ask that university how credits typically transfer from the community college. A small amount of planning can make a big difference in the long run.
  • If you’re concerned that a community college won’t challenge you enough, ask if there’s an honors program. Participating in an honors program can place you with others that also want to be academically challenged.

Tuition Costs for Selected Community Colleges

Ellsworth Community College:
1100 College Ave, Iowa Falls, IA 50126

get directions

Tuition as low as $153 per credit hour

Flathead Valley Community College:
777 Grandview Drive, Kalispell, MT 59901, USA

get directions

Tuition is $49.30 for half a credit hour.

Central New Mexico Community College:
Central New Mexico Community College, 4700 Morris Street Northeast, Albuquerque, NM 87111, USA

get directions

Tuition varies based on resident or non-resident status.

Southwest Tennessee Community College:
Southwest Tennessee Community College, 5983 Macon Cove, Memphis, TN 38134, USA

get directions

$139 for one credit hour.

Mid Michigan Community College:
Mid Michigan Community College, 1375 South Clare Avenue, Harrison, MI 48625, USA

get directions

Per semester tuition/fees are $3,412 for in-district students.

College of Southern Nevada:
College of Southern Nevada, 1560 West Warm Springs Road, Henderson, NV 89014, USA

get directions

Tuition per semester: $ 2,907 (Nevada); different prices for "With Parent & "Western Undergrad."

Kilian Community College:
Kilian Community College, 300 East 6th Street, Sioux Falls, SD 57103, USA

get directions

$290 per credit hour.

Kansas City Kansas Community College:
Kansas City Kansas Community College, 7250 State Avenue, Kansas City, KS 66112, USA

get directions

Varies: As low as $68 per credit hour for residents; as high as $192 per credit hour for non-residents.

Western Wyoming Community College:
Western Wyoming Community College, 2500 College Drive, Rock Springs, WY 82901, USA

get directions

$101 per credit hour or $1,200 per semester for Wyoming residents; separate cost for non-Wyoming students.

Cleveland Community College:
Cleveland Community College, 137 South Post Road, Shelby, NC 28152, USA

get directions

$1,144.00 per semester for North Carolina residents for 16 or more credit hours; $71.50 per semester hour.

Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska, welcomes you.
Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska, welcomes you. | Source

© 2014 erinshelby


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