What Are the Average Community College Tuition Costs? (It Might Shock You)

What are the Average Community College Costs per YearA few months ago, my 17-year old son was accepted into a fairly rigorous technical college that focuses on mechanics.

I was happy for him, but at the same time, knew the tuition to attend the school would not be cheap.

When the recruiter tallied up the costs associated with going to through the program – my wife and I were a bit shocked.

It’s no secret that attending college is one of the best investments a student can make as well as one of the costliest.

Tuition seems to be going only one way: up.

It’s estimated that the average loan debt that a student will take with them after graduation is over $20,000.

And the sad thing is that many students will spend a large chunk of their working life paying it off!

Considering Community College

One of the things my son’s recruiter tries to emphasis with kids he works with is to pick a career first before picking a college. Many times students will go to college without any clear direction about their future career. “Give me four years and I’ll figure it out” is the mantra many students live by. But when you think about it, a student can save a lot of money and time working on figuring out what it is they are good at and how they can make it a career vs. trying to figure out where to go to school.

If a student doesn’t know what it is they want to do before entering college, many times the best solution is to attend a community college. But even if they do know – a community college can end up being a cost-effective and better solution than a 4-year private or public university.

In 2011, an article declared that community college graduates earn more money than their four-year counterparts. According to the report, community colleges tend to teach practical skills and impart technical training that others often times do not.

Average Community College Costs

So, what are the average costs to attend community college? To answer that, I consulted the College Board. These are the guys that developed the SAT entrance exam. They have a wealth of statistics on trends associated with tuition costs at 2-year community and technical colleges. Because costs can vary from school to school, let’s just compare published tuition and fees.

community college costs

According to the College Board, the average tuition and fees for a 2-year community college during the 2011-2012 school year was $3,000. Now, compare those rates to a 4-year public college at $8,370. That’s quite a difference.

The College Board estimates that in this current year, 2012-2013, the tuition rates will only rise $130 for a 2-year school.

Community colleges not only have less tuition costs, but can be cheaper overall due to no room and board costs. Many students will opt for staying at home and commuting to school than relocating and paying room/board costs on top of tuition.

It’s also important to factor in grant and tax benefits when figuring in your school costs. According to the College Board, average total grant and tax benefits for attending a community college for the 2011-2012 school year amounted to $4,350. Compared against the average total tuition and fees, that’s a -$1,350 difference (essentially giving the student a free-ride!).

While some students will get their associates degree and go on to a rewarding career – many will decide to continue on to a 4-year college to continue their studies and obtain a bachelor’s degree. Consider a student attending a 4-year public institution for four years vs. another who attended a 2-year community college earning some of the same credits. The full, 4-year student would be paying (using our 2011-2012 tuition/fees number) over $30,000 while the community college student (who only needed two years at the 4-year college) would be paying just over $20,000 – a $10k difference!

As you can see, there is quite a benefit to knowing the career you want to get into and obtaining a degree as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. A community college just may be the right fit for you and you pocket book.

Did you attend a community college – what was your experience? Did you continue on to a 4-year college/university?

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  1. Josh @ Live Well Simply

    Community college is the way to go. Even if you want to get a 4 year degree at a state university, it pays to get a 2 year transfer degree from your local community college before switching over. You’ll save thousands in the process. Great article!

    • Aaron

      Thanks Josh!

  2. Mike

    My kids went to Pensicola Christian, graduated with masters and debt free. Secular colleges are no longer schools but leftest indoctrination institutions. Do really want to pay some one to mis-educate ( lie ) to your children? Just asking. I here very good things about Liberty college as well. West Coast told one of my sons it was ok to drop out of his Christian High School and go there as long as I wrote the check, you do the math on that one. Shop closely peopl you don’t get a second chance.

  3. Robert Jacobs

    I worked my way through school by attending a community college. I did my due diligence to make sure classes would transfer to a university. I eventually went on to get a 4 year degree and graduated with ZERO debt. If I had to do it again (15 years ago), I wouldn’t change a thing. Community college is a great option.

    • Mike

      Secular college ok? Gay marriage ok? govt debt spending ok? Godless Darwin ok? Smoking dope ok? Binge drinking ok? Co-ed dorms ok? Fornication ok? Over paid govt educrats with student debt ok? I don’t have all day to continue. All I see is why a comunist gets re-elected.

    • Mike

      Govt grants are not free they have purchased socilaism in America.

  4. Christine

    I am a graduate of a very popular CC college in Ohio – Sinclair Community College in Dayton. I was fornuate after 2.5 years to graduate with an Associates Degree in Business Marketing. I then landed a good job with a local company. A few years later, they offere employer education reimbursement (very rare to find these days), where nearly ALL of my credits transfered to a 4 year college, Capital University. I was able to obtain my Bachelor’s of Marketing 2 years later. Basically, I had no debt when I left SCC and thanks to my employer, no debt either.

    I am encouraging any young high students (even my own kids) that community college is a great way to go – to not only ‘get their feet wet’, but also it gives you time to decide on your major without all the high costs of classes for ‘general education’ credits.

    Community college is the way to go!!

  5. Shannon

    My husband and I both attended community colleges before finishing at a university. We are in our mid-twenties, debt-free, and living for the glory of Jesus Christ.
    I loved my community college experience. If our children want to have a career that requires a college degree, we are planning on encouraging them to attend a community college first. Even if they had all expenses paid, we would still lean towards this option.

  6. Lydia

    My daughter is attending Liberty university. She is over 3000 miles away from home, but my husband and I are happy that she is in a Christian university where the students are challenged to live for Christ daily. The cost is reasonable when you compare it with secular universities and we have blessed that she is building on a Biblical foundation wherever her life will take her after graduation.

  7. joe

    I agree with everything, as that is how it played out for me 45 years ago.

    Recently, I spoke to a young man contemplating a similar action. He decided on a 4 year university because many of the community college credits would not transfer.

    Is this true in all or even most cases? I don’t know. But I would research what would transfer by contacting the registrar at the university.

    Don’t be surprised if things change mid-stream, as with many things these days. The universities make up rules to meet their own needs.

    • Mike

      Harvard now has more capital than Exxon. Needs where met long long ago. SOP is soaking students with life time debt to inrich educrats. No thanks if the school doesn’t put God first there is NO reason to even call them, for a Christian.

  8. Cheryl Tamburri

    I have 2 children in college – one at a 4 year school, and one at community college. I can agree with the comments regarding the financial benefit of attending community colleges, but there are startling statistics, at least in the state of California, on non-completion of 2 year course of study leading to associate degrees. 70% of California community college students do not complete a course of study and transfer to 4 year schools. There is something to be said for the living/learning environment that 4 year students are able to immerse themselves in, and I believe it builds maturity and supports greater academic success. Many 4 year Freshman either enter college with an undeclared major, or change majors within a year or two. Having a clear idea of ‘what you want to be when you grow up’ is not as important as having a strong academic work ethic to successfully graduate.

  9. Dawn

    I would totally agree with the above comments. Community college is affordable and is a chance for young people to get their feet wet. I think there is a better chance at success especially for the not so diligent or those who have not developed excellent study habits or maturity as of yet. I paid $6K for a Broadcasting school for my daughter who dropped out in 12 weeks and there was no refund. I also went to a trade school for LPN and then went to Community college for RN. I work with a nurse with a Masters, we do the same job and my income is 75 cents less an hour. I paid about $25K less for my education. Unfortunately, education is not rewarded in Nursing. They push people to get a 4 yr degree BUT they do not financially compensate nurses for this. They threaten that you won’t be able to get a job because they are weeding out the 2 yr degreed nurses. We already have a drastic shortage of nurses so this is a meaningless threat. They have used the same tactics for the past 35 years that I have been working as an Associate degreed nurse. Much would have to change before they would be able to do this.

    • Mike

      Community College is Higher priced than Pensicola or Liberty, where Christ comes first.

  10. Alisha

    Many public 4 year schools also have programs where they will give discounted tuition to students transferring from community colleges with high GPAs. Definitely worth looking into!

  11. Kathleen K

    Our local community college is affiliated with several state universities. Credits do transfer. I’ve told our boys (currently jr high and younger) it is okay if they don’t know what they want to do…community college is so cheap they can live at home, work part time, attend school part time and figure out what they want to do…take classes in a variety of subjects, study a variety of interests.

    • Mike

      A network of socialist thievery and indoctrination, congradulations, Christian.

  12. Kenneth

    I am a senior in HS and am not sure what to major in. I have been accepted to both 4-year schools I applied to and even sent in my confirmation to one of them. But I am not sure that is where I want to go or that I want to major in what I plan to major in. I need help. Is community college better? My issue is when I look at community schools I see majors. And since I do not know what I want to do I am not sure where to go. Any ideas? Please help.

    • Aaron

      Hi Kenneth

      Thanks for stopping by. I actually ended up going to a private, 4-year school – but at times, wished I had gone to a community college instead to get my generals out of the way AND save a little money. Since it sounds like you haven’t quite decided on what it is you’d like to do – perhaps that would be a good option for you – checking into a community college and just getting your requirements out of the way. This will likely also save you some money and give you some breathing room to decide what direction you’d like to take. My thoughts – and my best to you!

  13. Lance

    I am 28 years old and back in 2006 I attended a trade school owned by the State of Michigan. I took their Computer Aided Drafting and Design certificate program. I have never regretted going to that trade school. I had a wonderful drafting instructor. In fact, my math instructor was even christian lady. She also was a wonderful math teacher. It was a great experience but, I came to have one major problem

    Due to developing vision issues and poor vision, I wasn’t really able to obtain employment. Eventually, I was not allowed to drive. It soon became too dangerous and just wasn’t safe. I felt like my goals had just been flushed down the toilet but, things would eventually change.

    After having cornea transplants, my vision has improved up to a certain extent. I now work for a small business doing some CAD work right from home. The DMV has even given me the opportunity to work towards getting a drivers license for daytime driving. Then there’s the possibility of me being able to go back to school.

    I now find myself looking into going back to school. I have been thinking about community college. There is community college that is about a 45 minute drive away. It has a Architectural Technology (Architectural Drafting) program. It seems to be a great program and would build on what I have already learned. The problem is, I guess fear the unknown.

    I have never attended an actual college or university before. I don’t really no what to expect?. I keep thinking I would welcome the experience and that it would become an investment well spent. I also worry about my vision. Even though it has improved, it is not perfect. Driving when it is dark is also not an option for me. I often wonder if a community college would be considerate of my not being able to drive at night? Would they be able to accommodate me when scheduling classes?