14Is Community College a Better Place to Start?

We have discussed how to think about whether a four-year college degree is a good option for your child and some of the risks and rewards associated with paying a substantial amount of money for a degree and spending at least four years and possibly much more preparing for a career. Community college provides an alternative in cases where going directly for a four-year degree might not make sense. For some students, going directly to a four-year college may cause personal and academic challenges that could derail their success and leave them without a degree at all while still stuck paying off student loans. Others may earn their four-year degree but incur a large amount of debt relative to the typical incomes of people in their ultimate career field. For these students, community college could be a smarter strategy for achieving the typical four-year degree career pathway.

On the flip side, some students may have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish in their career, and they have found local community colleges that offer the necessary preparation to enter that field directly. Career fields such as nursing, medical technology, information technology, and physical therapy provide well-paying entry-level jobs in growing industries to students with associate degrees that can be earned at a community college. For motivated and focused students with clear career goals, community college can be an excellent and affordable route ...

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