Attending community college before transferring to a four-year school is a common strategy for college cost savings. However, our latest study illustrates how students in 10 different states can save more than $15,700 while pursuing an undergraduate degree.
After calculating the costs of college credits at schools nationwide, we compared the price tags of earning your first 60 credits of a 120-credit degree at a two-year public college versus a four-year public college.
Wondering how your own state measures up? Scroll over our map below to see how much students can save thanks to community college credit costs.
Students save $11,377 going to community college first
First off, the cost of community college credits is, on average, 60 percent cheaper than at four-year public colleges.
Therefore, a student who earns their first 60 credits at a two-year public school before transferring to an in-state college would pay an average of $11,377 less for a four-year degree.
And if they pay for those credits with student loans, the cost difference is even greater (an additional $3,573) thanks to the interest they accrue.
For example, let’s say a student has a loan balance of $11,377 after completing 60 credits. And they’re in school accruing interest on those unsubsidized loans for two more years at an interest rate of four percent. That would bring their student loan balance to $12,305.
Using our student loan payment calculator, we find that total interest racked up over 10 years would be $2,645. Once you add in the interest accrued on the loans during school, you get a grand interest total of $3,573.
Overall, how much students save thanks to the community college cost they incur will depend on the costs of public colleges in their state.
New Jersey students tend to save the most — $20,990 — by getting their first 60 credits at a community college. Whereas community college offers the smallest cost difference to Kansas residents who save $2,800 on average.
10 states where community college students save the most
For students trying to choose a college, comparing price tags among various institutions can help them decide if attending a community college would be worth it.
In fact, in the top 10 states for community college savings, the cost of 60 credits is at least $15,700 cheaper than at in-state four-year public schools.
Let’s take a look at the 10 states where students will see the biggest savings thanks to the cost of community college credits.
1. New Jersey: $20,993
As mentioned earlier, New Jersey college students stand to save the most by attending a community college first rather than one of the state’s four-year public schools from the get-go.
That’s mostly due to high tuition costs at four-year public colleges in New Jersey. A college credit costs $519 — the third-highest of any state.
However, New Jersey’s average community college costs are $169 per credit. So students save a whopping $350 for every credit earned at a two-year school versus a four-year school.
2. Illinois: $20,707
Illinois residents face higher costs at $487 per credit at four-year state colleges.
But, credits at Illinois community colleges are about 71 percent cheaper at $142 each. So for 60 credits, that adds up to $20,707 in savings.
What’s more, students who plan to pay for college with student loans would save an extra $6,504 in interest going to community college first.
3. Pennsylvania: $18,653
Four-year public schools in Pennsylvania have the second-highest cost per credit in the nation at $521.
And while a savings difference of 60 percent by attending a community colleges is on par with the national average, the dollar savings are much higher at $18,653 for 60 credits. That’s because Pennsylvania community colleges have an average cost of $210 per credit hour.
4. California: $18,403
California students can save a whopping $18,403 for 60 credits by attending one of the state’s many community colleges.
These savings are thanks in part to the rock-bottom community college costs in California. At just $52 per credit hour on average, the Golden State has the cheapest community colleges in the U.S.
While its four-year public colleges have above-average costs at $359 per credit, they’re far from the most expensive. But when credits cost seven times more, on average, than they would at a community college, the savings definitely add up — especially if a student is looking at taking out private student loans to pay for college.
5. Virginia: $17,706
At No. 5 is Virginia, where students save $295 per credit earned at a public two-year college instead of their four-year counterparts. That’s an average $17,706 in savings for students who earn their first 60 credits at a community college and transfer.
If a student can lessen their student loans by avoiding these additional costs, then they would avoid $5,561 in student loan interest as well.
6. Arizona: $16,698
Arizona has the third-lowest community college tuitions in the nation. This means students can save $16,698 on a four-year degree by starting out at a two-year school.
That’s because the average cost of community college in Arizona is just $86 a credit— $278 less than at public four-year schools. Therefore, students get a 76 percent discount at a community college when compared to the $364 average cost per credit at Arizona’s four-year public schools.
7. Michigan: $16,231
Attending a community college first will save a Michigan student $271 per credit, on average. That’s two-thirds less than the average $407 cost-per-credit at a four-year public college in the state.
And for 60 credit hours, Michigan community college students average a total savings of $16, 231.
8. South Carolina: $16,153
The savings discount at a community college in South Carolina is on par with the national average of 60 percent. But with a higher cost-per-credit of $454 for a four-year public school, South Carolina is the eighth-highest cost-wise in the nation.
Therefore, there are more dollars to be saved by earning credits at a community college, since they’re $269 each. What’s more, the average cost of community college is $185 per credit in South Carolina.
Overall, students in this state can expect to save $16,153 on average by attending a community college and transferring accordingly.
9. Vermont: $15,866
In Vermont, the margins of savings students get by choosing a community college are narrower. That’s because college credits are just 52 percent cheaper at Vermont’s community colleges versus its four-year public schools.
However, Vermont also has the second-highest cost-per-credit of any state for both community colleges ($245) and public four-year colleges ($510). These high numbers make for a bigger dollar difference per-credit at $264, leading to a total savings of $15,866 on 60 credits.
10. Delaware: $15,773
Delaware residents save $263 on credits thanks to community college costs compared to a four-year public school.
These savings are due mostly to high tuition costs at four-year schools in Delaware. At $410 per credit, they are among the highest in the nation.
Delaware’s average cost of community college falls right in the middle at $147 a credit. This gives students at two-year public colleges in this state some of the biggest savings by shaving off an average of $15,773 from the cost of a four-year degree.
Based on our findings from this study, prospective college students should seriously consider attending a community college and then transferring if they want to offset their overall educational costs. Not to mention avoid taking on more student loan debt than may be necessary.
For more information on how to make college more affordable, check out our article on 11 ways to reduce your college expenses.
Methodology: College credit costs were calculated using tuition data from the U.S. Department of Education. This was based on annual tuition and fees for the college, assuming two semesters of full-time enrollment (12 credits). State-by-state data was calculated by averaging all reported tuitions in a specific sector in all 50 states. Public school averages are based on the cost-per-credit for all two-year and four-year public colleges for in-state residents. Data is for 2014-15 school year, released May 2016.
The full rankings of all 50 states are listed in the table below, along with the dollar amount of savings from earning 60 credits at a 2-year public college vs. a 4-year public college.
|State||Savings in dollars|
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2022!
|1.19% – 11.98%1||Undergraduate|
|1.62% – 11.73%*,2||Undergraduate|
|0.94% – 11.44%3||Undergraduate|
|1.64% – 11.45%4||Undergraduate|
|1.89% – 11.92%5||Undergraduate|
|0.00% – 23.00%8||Undergraduate|
|* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers.
1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community Bank, member FDIC, or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC.. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a first year graduate student borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.10% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $141.66 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $16,699.21. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
Information advertised valid as of 4/19/2022. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.
2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
3 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.
Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 3.49% APR to 13.03% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.19% APR to 10.14% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Although the rate will vary after you are approved, it will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for this loan). Please note, Earnest Private Student Loans are not available in Nevada.
4 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Ascent loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs
Rates are effective as of 05/01/2022 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes income-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentFunding.com/Rates.
1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions, please visit AscentFunding.com/Cashback. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student borrowers must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs are available for the most creditworthy applicants and may require a cosigner.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 3.47% to 11.16% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.89% to 11.92% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.60to 11.06% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 2.59% to 11.82% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.48% to 11.16% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.69% to 11.92% APR (with autopay). For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 05/04/2022. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. Loans originated by SoFi Lending Corp. or an affiliate (dba SoFi), licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 3.48% – 11.64% (3.48% – 10.78% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 4.89% – 11.64% (4.89% – 11.34% APR).
Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 4.49% – 10.39% (4.49% – 9.68% APR).
Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 4.43% – 9.19% (4.44% – 8.89% APR).
Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 4.80%-8.23% (4.80%-8.24% APR).
Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.40% – 12.83% APR).
Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.98% – 10.09% APR).
ERL Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates are based on the 30-day average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (“SOFR”) index, as published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As of May 1, 2022, the 30-day average SOFR index is 0.29%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the SOFR index, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable interest rate is the greater of 21.00% or the prime rate plus 9.00%.
Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.
Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates are only available for the most creditworthy applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate or medical degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer. Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.
Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
7 Important Disclosures for Funding U.
Funding U Disclosures
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are made by Funding University which is a for-profit enterprise. Funding University is not affiliated with the school you are attending or any other learning institution. None of the information contained in Funding University’s website constitutes a recommendation, solicitation or offer by Funding University or its affiliates to buy or sell any securities or other financial instruments or other assets or provide any investment advice or service.
8 Important Disclosures for Edly.
1. Loan Example:
About this example
The initial payment schedule is set upon receiving final terms and upon confirmation by your school of the loan amount. You may repay this loan at any time by paying an effective APR of 23%. The maximum amount you will pay is $22,500 (not including Late Fees and Returned Check Fees, if any). The maximum number of regularly scheduled payments you will make is 60. You will not pay more than 23% APR. No payment is required if your gross earned income is below $30,000 annually or if you lose your job and cannot find employment.
2. Edly Student IBR Loans are unsecured personal student loans issued by FinWise Bank, a Utah chartered commercial bank, member FDIC. All loans are subject to eligibility criteria and review of creditworthiness and history. Terms and conditions apply.