The crushing student loan debt crisis has many questioning the value of achieving a higher education. Still many high school graduates, GED holders, and adults seeking occupational training often opt to take what they think is a cost-efficient route of community college, as most moderately decent paying jobs these days minimally require some type of certification or at least a two-year degree.
Typically these programs offer accredited courses to meet certification requirements or students attend with the intention of completing a two-year associate’s degree and then transferring to a four-year university to achieve a bachelor’s in their area of study.
Community colleges primarily focus on these two learning paradigms and currently accommodate nearly half of the US collegiate population. This translates to millions of students and billions of dollars.
However, according to a Century Foundation report, mentioned in the Huffington Post, the majority of community college students who plan on earning a four-year qualification will never achieve a bachelor’s degree. Stats show that of the 81.4 percent of community college enrollees with their sights on a BA or BS, only 11.6 percent will actually receive one.
Going to college involves more than passing a few courses, as each individual must know how to navigate advising and financial aid, and students can be easily derailed from their educational path for a variety of reasons beyond a simple failure to try. These can include a change in job, income, loss of financial aid, having to relocate/move, becoming a parent, and taking care of aging parents or a suddenly ill/injured loved one.
Students who are unsure of their educational goals when initially entering college can inadvertently languish, spending more money in the long run if they change majors/minors too often, and can burn out before transferring, or fall victim to for-profit education scams.
The Century Foundation is a think tank, founded as a nonprofit public policy research institution. The Century Foundation study – utilizing data from the National Center for Education Statistics – states that community college student backgrounds have become more diverse both economically and racially.
The report suggests there is a flaw in the educational model when comparing community colleges to “elite” universities – noting a drastic disparity in staffing, funding, and spending as reasons for the lack of degree holders.
Additionally, experts remind potential college-goers there are many institutions that operate more like a business (for-profit) – sustaining on enrollment dollars and questionable recruiting tactics. For-profit colleges – frequently cited for having higher loan-default ratings, larger debt outcomes for students, and sometimes are not accredited or having a pending accreditation – target low-income and minority students with their marketing and recruitment.
Students should be mindful before entering to a program of the costs and requirements a degree entails – including the accreditation of the institution. Avoid places that use pressure tactics and who try to rush through funding options surrounding student loans or charge fees for processing FASFA applications. Filling out financial aid applications can be done for free and online.
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