Study: Top 10 States Where Community College Students Save the Most Money

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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
1 New Jersey $20,993
2 Illinois $20,707
3 Pennsylvania $18,653
4 California $18,403
5 Virginia $17,706
6 Arizona $16,698
7 Michigan $16,231
8 South Carolina $16,153
9 Vermont $15,866
10 Delaware $15,773
11 Connecticut $15,749
12 Rhode Island $15,260
13 New Hampshire $14,031
14 Maine $12,845
15 Maryland $12,664
16 Kentucky $12,661
17 Colorado $12,226
18 Texas $11,963
19 Minnesota $11,314
20 Tennessee $11,006
21 Alabama $10,891
22 Oregon $10,823
23 Missouri $10,677
24 Idaho $10,671
25 Arkansas $10,554
26 Hawaii $10,111
27 Mississippi $10,064
28 Massachusetts $9,740
29 Wisconsin $9,316
30 North Carolina $9,301
31 Indiana $9,098
32 Louisiana $8,655
33 New Mexico $8,456
34 Iowa $8,432
35 Nebraska $8,299
36 Ohio $7,987
37 Montana $7,308
38 New York $6,473
39 Georgia $6,264
40 West Virginia $5,862
41 Washington $5,732
42 South Dakota $5,682
43 Alaska $5,518
44 Oklahoma $5,416
45 Utah $5,085
46 Wyoming $4,920
47 North Dakota $4,478
48 Nevada $4,043
49 Florida $2,878
50 Kansas $2,796

 

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1.90% – 11.66%5Undergraduate and Graduate

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2.72% – 13.00%6Undergraduate and Graduate

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3.52% – 9.50%7Undergraduate and Graduate

Visit CommonBond

* 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.

CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust 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.

  1. 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.
     
  2. 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 7/1/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates 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 Important Disclosures for Discover.

Discover Disclosures

  1. Aggregate loan limits apply.
  2. Students who get at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) qualify for a one-time cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Please visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for any applicable reward terms and conditions.
  3. Lowest APRs shown are available for the most creditworthy applicants and include an interest-only repayment discount and Auto Debit Reward. The interest rate ranges represent the lowest and highest interest rates offered on Discover student loans, including undergraduate and graduate loans. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable margin percentage. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 0.375% as of July 1, 2020. Discover Student Loans may adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Our lowest APR is only available to customers with the best credit and other factors. Your APR will be determined after you apply. It will be based on your credit history, which repayment option you choose and other factors, including your cosigner’s credit history (if applicable). Learn more about Discover Student Loans interest rates.
  4. Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for the Discover Private Consolidation Loan and include an Auto Debit Reward. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable margin percentage. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 0.375% as of July 1, 2020. Discover Student Loans may adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Our lowest APR is only available to customers with the best credit and other factors. Your APR will be determined after you apply. It will be based on your credit history, which repayment option you choose and other factors, including your cosigner’s credit history (if applicable). Learn more about Discover Student Loans interest rates.
Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.

4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

  1. Rates include 0.25% Auto Pay Discount
     
  2. Explanation of Rates “With Autopay” (APD)
    Rates shown include 0.25% APR discount when client agrees to make monthly principal and interest payments by automatic electronic payment. Use of autopay is not required to receive an Earnest loan.

    Available Terms
    For Cosigned loans – 5, 7, 10, 12, 15 years. 
    Primary Only – 10, 12, 15 years

    In school deferred payment is not available in AL, AZ, CA, FL, MA, MD, MI, ND, NY, PA, and WA).


5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

sofiDisclosures

UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.76% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.90% to 11.66% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 11.83% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.80% to 11.73% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.11% to 11.81% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.78% to 11.72% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.26% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.90% to 11.16% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. 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 07/10/2020. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).


6 Important Disclosures for Ascent.

Ascent Disclosures

Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.

  1. Competitive variable rates calculated monthly at the time of loan approval based on a margin plus the 1-Month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) rounded to the nearest 1/100th of a percent. The current LIBOR is 0.176%, which may adjust monthly. Your interest rate may increase or decrease, based on LIBOR monthly changes. Rates are effective as of 08/01/2020 and reflect an Automatic Payment Discount. 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. (See Automatic Payment Discount Terms & Conditions.)
    1. Undergraduate Loans: Variable rate loans have an Annual Percentage (APR) range between 2.72% – 13.00%. Fixed rate loans have an APR range between 3.53% and 14.50% based on your credit worthiness and your selected program. Rates reflect an Automatic Payment Discount of 0.25% (for Credit-Based Loans) on the lowest offered rate and a 2.00% (for Undergraduate Future Income-Based Loans ) discount on the highest offered rate. (See Undergraduate Loan repayment examples.)
    2. Graduate Loans: Variable rate loans have an APR range between 5.33% and 11.42%. Fixed rate loans have an APR range between 6.14% and 11.92% based on your credit worthiness and your selected program. Rates reflect an Automatic Payment Discount of 0.25%. (See Graduate Loan repayment examples.)
  2. Payments may be deferred. Subject to lender discretion, forbearance and/or deferment options may be available for borrowers who are encountering financial distress.
  3. Making interest only or partial interest payments while in school will not reduce the principal balance of the loan. There are three (3) flexible in-school repayment options that include fully deferred, interest only and $25 minimum repayment. (See Undergraduate Loan repayment examples.)
  4. Flexible repayment plans may be offered up to a fifteen (15) year repayment term for a variable rate loan and ten (10) year repayment term for a fixed rate loan. Students must be enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school. Minimum loan amount is $2,000.
  5. Interest rate reduction of either 0.25% (for Credit-Based Loans) or 2.00% (for Undergraduate Future Income-Based Loans) applies only when the borrower and/or cosigner sign up for automatic payments and the payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account each month. The amount of the discount is dependent upon the loan product and credit history of the borrower at the time of application. Interest rate reduction(s) will not apply during periods when no payment is due, including periods of in-school, deferment, grace or forbearance, unless a regular payment amount has been arranged with the servicer. If you have two (2) consecutive returned payments for Nonsufficient Funds, we may cancel your automatic debit enrollment and you will lose the interest rate reduction. You will then need to re-qualify and re-enroll in automatic debit payments to receive the interest rate reduction.(See Automatic Payment Discount Terms & Conditions.)
  6. All applicants (individual and cosigner) are required to complete a brief online financial literacy course as part of the application process to be eligible for funding.
  7. Eligibility, loan amount and other loan terms are dependent on several factors, which may include: loan product, other financial aid, creditworthiness, school, program, graduation date, major, cost of attendance and other factors. Aggregate loan limits may apply. The cost of attendance is determined and certified by the educational institution.
  8. The legal age for entering into contracts is eighteen (18) years of age in every state except Alabama where it is nineteen (19) years old, Nebraska where it is nineteen (19) years old (only for wards of the state), and Mississippi and Puerto Rico where it is twenty-one (21) years old.
  9. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Click here for details. In order to be eligible for the 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward, borrower must meet the following criteria after graduation:
    • The student borrower has graduated from the degree program that the loan was used to fund.
    • The student borrower may change majors and/or transfer to a different school, but must obtain the same level of degree (e.g. – undergraduate or graduate)
    • The graduation date is more than 90 days and less than five (5) years after the date of the loan’s first disbursement.
    • Any loan that the student has borrowed under the Ascent loan is not more than 30-days delinquent or in a default status as of the graduation date and until any Graduation Reward is paid.
  10. Students can apply to release their cosigner and continue with the loan in only their name after making the first 24 consecutive regularly scheduled full principal and interest payments on-time and meeting the other eligibility criteria to qualify for the loan without a cosigner.

* Application times vary depending on the applicant’s ability to supply the necessary information for submission.


7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

Offered terms are subject to change and state law restrictions. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS #1175900).

  1.  Rates are as of July 1, 2019 and include auto-pay discount. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.