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Is Community College or a University Better in the Long Run?

by Susan Revermann

You will find several pros and cons to attending either a community college or a university. Your ultimate educational goal, your desired salary, the costs of your education, your social opportunities and how quickly you want to enter the workforce all need to be considered before you make your final decision. Ultimately, only you can decide which is better for you and your current situation.

Cost

The cost of your education can be a strong factor in determining which route you want to take, especially if you must take out student loans to pay for it. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the estimated cost for undergraduate tuition, room and board for the 2010-to-2011 academic year was $13,600 for a public university and over $32,000 at four-year private educational institutions. Public two-year colleges cost about $8,000 annually, and private two-year institutions are around $24,000. If a student lives at home, the room and board costs can be lowered or eliminated, but the cost of travel will need to be considered. Many community colleges do not offer on-campus housing, so other housing arrangements must be made.

Salary

According to a 2010 report by the National Center for Education Statistics, the median salary for a high school graduate or GED certificate holder was $29,900. This increased to $37,000 for an associate’s degree holder and $45,000 for an individual with a bachelor’s degree. If money is among your ultimate goals, you will want to consider putting the time into a four-year degree.

Time

When you are considering whether to attend a community college or a university, you should take into account how fast you want to earn your degree. The sooner you receive your degree, the quicker you can enter the workforce and start earning money for everyday expenses and luxuries. Putting in the time to get a more advanced degree will make you more money in the long run -- but you will have to wait to start earning it.

Campus Life

If you are looking to make lifelong friends at a club, organization or school function, four-year colleges and universities are the way to go. Networking, social opportunities, extracurricular activities and the possibility of meeting new people outside of class are more likely at these educational institutions. Community colleges usually lack a lively on-campus social scene, since most people come to campus for class and then leave after their work is done.

Photo Credits

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