When Adam Reres was planning out his college career, he took a route a bit different than many of his peers.
Rather than go directly to the four-year state school of his dreams, he decided to go to Valencia Community College first. Then, he transferred to the University of Central Florida.
“My decision to go to community college was mainly based on cost,” Reres says. “Community college was about one-third of the tuition of a four-year school.”
“And because Florida guarantees acceptance into state universities with all of the core requirements accounted for, it was my gateway into a four-year program without wasting money on unnecessary credits,” adds Reres.
His decision ultimately saved him thousands of dollars. And his approach to college, which college officials call the 2+2 plan, can be a great way to get a degree at a fraction of the cost.
For people trying to keep costs down and minimize student loan debt, here’s why the 2+2 plan could work for you.
Cost of education
We all know the cost of a bachelor’s degree can be staggering.
In 2015-2016, the average cost of tuition for a year at an in-state public school was $9,410. Or, if you opted to go to a private university instead, you would owe $32,405 for one year of schooling.
College graduates also walked away with over $37,000 in student loan debt. A financial burden many students simply cannot afford.
By contrast, community colleges are much cheaper than their four-year counterparts. On average, they cost a $3,440 a year. That’s almost a tenth of what a year at a private institution would cost you.
And, more and more people are recognizing the benefits and savings that come with going to community college.
Over the course of ten years, the number of students attending community college jumped from more than five million to more than eight million.
And while community colleges used to focus solely on offering associate’s degrees or job training, more students are using the schools as a launchpad to a four-year university.
As community colleges become more prestigious and well-known, they have started offering a strategy known as the 2+2 plan.
Under a 2+2 program, students attend a community college for two years and then transfer to a partnering four-year college or university.
It’s a useful approach that families can use to cut down on education costs. Or, for students who otherwise could not afford a bachelor’s degree. It can be a path towards a necessary degree for a well-paying career.
Benefits of the 2+2 plan
Going to a community college from the beginning has many advantages beyond just saving money.
However, according to The New York Times, many college freshmen from a variety of universities are unsure of what their major should be.
And, if you go to a four-year school and switch your major while enrolled, you could potentially add years and thousands of dollars to the total cost of your education.
But, if you go to a two-year school, you could knock out general credit requirements and core curriculum for a fraction of the price.
You can also try out different courses to see what interests you while you’re at a community college. Without forking out thousands of dollars.
And, if your grades from high school weren’t that great, getting into your dream school and winning a scholarship may be impossible. However, by going to a community college first, you can improve your application with hard work.
That approach may ultimately increase your chances of getting accepted into your top school later on.
Make the 2+2 plan work for you
To make the most of your time at community college and minimize expenses, enroll in a school that has a partnership with a major four-year university.
Many schools have agreements with four-year schools that guarantee the university will accept your community college credits.
You can also use the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers’ database to see what credits will transfer over to your intended college.
Many community colleges have academic advisors specifically trained to help students who intend to transfer after two years. These professionals can help you plan your academic career and choose classes wisely to ensure your credits transfer over.
Additionally, most community colleges offer classes to complement working a full-time job. These can be helpful to you but further reducing your education costs.
Essentially, you can maximize your income and minimize your expenses by working during the day and taking classes at night. That way, you can save money while pursuing your education.
That approach can keep your expenses low. And, will eliminate the need for student loans when you transfer to a four-year school.
Using the 2+2 plan can help you avoid student loan debt while still earning a degree from a four-year school.
And, your diploma will be just as valid and reputable as someone who went to the school for the full four years. Plus, you will have saved thousands of dollars.
If the 2+2 program sounds like a good option for you, contact your local community college and ask about transfer agreements to plan out your education path.
By attending a community college and transferring you can minimize your student loan debt later on. And start your career with a more secure financial future.
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