The average annual cost of attending a four-year, in-state public university in 2014-2015 is $18,943, according to the College Board’s annual survey of colleges. That figure includes tuition, fees, room, and board. Even if you don’t consider inflation, this amounts to $75,772 for four years.

Education is a valuable investment. But when budgets are tight, an increasing number of high-school graduates are finding two-year community colleges to be a viable option.


The price tag

Community colleges cost significantly less: Tuition and fees are $3,347 compared with $9,139 at a four-year university. Students who live at home while attending local community colleges also skip the price of room and board. Using 2014-2015 prices, if you planned to attend a four-year university for the final two years of a four-year college program, you’d still save more than $11,000 in tuition by first enrolling in a community college.


Choose your degree

Community colleges offer six-month and year-long certificate programs, technical degrees, and two-year Associate of Arts or Science degrees. This accelerated education can be appealing to students eager to enter the work force.
Almost 80 percent of firefighters, law enforcement officers, and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) earn their degrees at community colleges. Community colleges also educate more than half of new nurses and the majority of other new, in demand healthcare workers.


Weigh your options


When choosing your higher education, start by considering answers to these questions:

  • Do your career aspirations require a four-year degree?
  • Do you want to live on your own or at home?
  • How much can you afford?
  • Are you eligible for scholarships or loans?
  • What extracurricular activities interest you?
  • Do you prefer large or small class sizes?
  • Do you prefer a large or small school?
  • How flexible is your schedule?
  • Do you want to conduct research?


After answering these questions, investigate which college option is best for you. Whether you choose a community college, four-year university, or combined path, Ascentra Credit Union can answer any financial questions you may have. You may even apply for the Ascentra Scholarship Program as a credit union member. We believe in the value of education and are here for you every step of the way.

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