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Facts I know: I know community colleges allow you to get your associate's degree. I know that colleges and universities allow you to get your bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees. I know you can transfer credit from community colleges to 4-year institutions.
Is it possible to go to community college (but not get your associate's) and have all of those credits transfer to a 4- year institution so you can graduate earlier? In essence, cutting out the general education requirements.
While I was at community college, I met quite a few UCSD students in my geology class. The course was the same and was less expensive than the one offered at university. I learn that many UC students did quite a few courses (for transfer) to their university degrees. So you would register at university and then go to community college for those courses you could do at community college.
Yes, you can take courses at a CC just for transfer credit & without graduating. You're still spending time in class, so it may not lead to an earlier graduation, but CC courses can apply to your four-year degree. Be sure to consult with your academic advisors at each school to make certain the CC credits will apply to a specific degree plan.
If you're interested in saving time (and money) look into CLEP, DANTES and ECE tests for credit by examination. Do an Internet search for Free Clep Prep, which is a website giving a ton of info and several sample tests. You can get upper- as well as lower-division courses that way. Many universities accept these credits, and you can often get much of the General Education work done that way.
I don't see the benefit of attending classes and satisfying the requirements for an associates degree and choosing not to receive it. I do see the benefit, as more and more students are, of attending a less expensive community college at $5,000 per year for two years for a grand total of $10,000 and satisfying all your general education requirements, then transferring over to a four year college to finish the last two years (at $30,000 per year), for a grand total of $70,000 for your Bachelors Degree rather than $120,000 (if you had stayed four years at the traditional four year college). If you do not want to advertise to potential employers that you started out at a community college, then don't list it on your resume. All they will see is the four year college you got your bachelors degree from.
I am a community college instructor, and every summer I have lots of high school students and students from four-year universities taking my classes in order to fulfill general education requirements. So these classes can apparently count whether you have any intention of getting a community college degree or not. It's smart too because community college courses are so much cheaper, and we community college instructors are awesome.
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