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October 11, 2011

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I completely agree with the advice of getting as many credits as possible through high school courses and taking a year or two at community college to get your basic 100 level courses.

I especially like your point 2b: "And if 10% of the company really is worth the $150k he saved in tuition, why go to school at all? Sounds like he's doing very well without it." School for many isn't worth the investment: http://www.soundmindinvesting.com/visitor/2009/oct/feature.htm

I do not like the community college idea except for those with average or lower expectations. Credits are often not transferable to the better colleges, and the person is spending valuable time in an extended version of high school.

The best way to reduce the cost of college is to get as much as possible out of the way DURING high school, not AFTER high school in community college.

My daughter took enough AP classes in a Houston public high school (FYI NOT the world's best public education system!) that she has a full year of college credit at the Ivy League college she is now attending. This enables her to skip many of the courses not related to her program, take even higher-level courses in the subjects she needs by jumping in at a more advanced level, and saving me $55,000 in tuition and fees.

I think scholarships are way oversold for most people. Unless your child is truly exceptional at something (FMF - maybe soccer for yours?), then there will be very little aid. The Ivy Leagues only give need-based aid.

If your child is easily able to get a good merit-based scholarship from the school, then you have to wonder if they should have gone to a more prestigious college. (Okay - I know THAT statement will generate a few replies on this blog, so let me quickly add that I am fortunate enough to be able to afford the full-price ripoff I am currently subjected to.)

I am a big fan of community colleges (full disclosure - I teach at one). We work closely with area universities to make sure our classes will transfer. In addition, many two-year programs (technical, allied health, etc.) are housed in community colleges and are a great bargain. My particular program costs less than $10,000 for a two years. Students may start out at $40,000/year which isn't fabulous, but I think it's good for our area. Plus, it's not a huge investment of time or money. My last two groups had a grant that paid for all their books and tuition if they so chose. Finally, we have a 100% job placement rate for our graduates within six months.
Teaching at my community college has the additional benefit of a full tuition waiver for spouses and children. That would significantly decrease our costs :).

The first example is someone who went to University of Victoria in Canada and spent $115,000. That doesn't seem like much of a bargain spending $115k. Spending $115k instead of $160k isn't really savings worth emulating IMHO. Should be able to get cheaper college simply going to your state college. On top of that, a Canadian school won't be very well known in the US. The girl says : "Gesten thinks it will be a net plus for employers once she explains where it is and what a good school it is." If you have to explain to an employer that you went to a good school then its reputation isn't helping. I'm sure its a good school but if your potential employers don't know that then it could be detrimental.

Maybe a Canadian school is a good choice, but at $115k its definitely not a bargain.

@LA: The part of my post about community college was not clear, so I apologize if it came across as snobbish.

Community colleges are a great option for people who want that type of education, whether they choose two-year programs that lead to careers or other programs.

But I think people who choose community college with a plan to transfer are deluding themselves that somehow they are getting the "real thing" at a bargain price. They are getting a different type of education - which may in fact be better for them or more cost-effective - but it is not just a low-cost version of the same product.

I would only recommend the CC to 4-year school route if it was the only way to afford higher education.

@ Mark

I didn't think your comment sounded snobbish. I just wanted to point out the value of the community college. I think that it's valuable for students who like a smaller, intimate atmosphere; students who do need affordable options for education; and other students who want a career path that I mentioned.
Many factors make a community college education different, but I think we probably both agree that one is not necessarily better than the other in general. Students need to evaluate their education needs and find the type of education that works for them. At least, that's what I hear you saying :0).
On a side note, I really like your comments about taking dual credit/AP courses. They are a great deal! My college has increased efforts to work with local high schools for this. I think this is or will be a trend for all community colleges and is something that all parents of high school students should be aware of.

I would like to point out that there are some savings in staying at home but there are different cost associated with that. My son is away at college but he does not have a car. Transportation is provided for free via buses.Yes he lives in a dorm but If you have a student who will commute there is the cost of the vehicle, insurance, maintenace and gas. Unless they are driving less than 10K miles a year at 56 cents a mile per AAA to operate a small sedan the cost is $5600 just to have that car to commute all of a sudden ofsets the some of that cost for room and board. Add in the cost of food an housing and the cost differental of a student at a dorm is still a little less but not as great of a number as people think. You are just not faced with that room and board cost in one lump sum.

I did the community college thing. All my credits transferred to the 4-year college of my choice. I felt the education at my community college was a good one, and in no way did I feel "behind" or that my time was wasted. Everything transferred just fine.

And it's so much cheaper to go the community college route!

Now that I'm going back for a second degree, summer is when I work and save up for my tuition (I also have a small FAFSA loan for what I can't pay). Luckily, I don't need to do the basic courses again...just the ones pertaining to the field I'm studying. I'm attending a small, relatively inexpensive 4-year college that is highly reputed in this area for its accounting program. I should be able to graduate with both a Bachelor's and a Master's in Accounting for around $15,000 in debt. Not bad....should be able to easily pay that off!

Surprised as to the naysayers regarding Community College.

I did the University thing my first year. Classes taught by TA's and over 200 in the class? Labs run by TA's. Hah!! Never saw the Professor, except during Exams. Learned very little in that environment.

Then punted and went to a Community College. Classes taught by actual Professors and small in size. Requirements the same as at University. Learned a great deal more and got all the pre reqs out of the way. In my area had the choice of 2 or 3 and chose one based on reputation.

Then went on a different University that specialized in my chosen course of study [somewhat specialized], had all the English, Speech, Chemistry and others out of the way. Was able to concentrate on my Major/s and graduated with Honors.

Had a job lined up prior to Graduation.

Community College did not hurt me one bit, in fact I have gone back to pick up some new skills, especially in the Technology/Computer Field.

In our state if your kids meet certain expectations, tuition at a community college is paid for two years. My kids are both doing it.

My biggest tip: believe it or not, not all high school seniors are cut out for a 4 year college/university. They may be better off going to a tech school for a trade, diving right into starting business(like the kid who traded 10% of his company, or maybe just go to work. Also, scholarships are bull, unless they are from the local community. I was in the top 10% of my class, 3.87 GPA and only received a $500 academic scholarship. None of the other scholarships I applied for amounted to anything at all.

AP, CLEP, & Community College aren't necessary. I graduated with honors in 3 1/2 years with no incoming credits, no summer classes and only the average debt of my state. I probably couldn't have gone any faster due to the availability of major classes, which may cause problems if you take all your gen eds in high school or at a community college. Most students can not take advantage of the free time from the subsequent small class load to take advantage of that cheaper 2 year degree.

On the other hand, my husband also graduated in 3 1/2 years but brought in a full semester of credits and took two full summers of classes. Even so, had he not been allowed to concurrently enroll in a class & its prereq at the same time, he would have had to stick around for another semester ($$$).

Academic, merit based scholarships aren't going to pay for college for the vast majority of students. ONly about 8% of students get any merit based scholarships (according to Finaid.org). And the average scholarship is about $2800. Don't count on scholarships. Of course its a good idea to pursue them and free money is free money. But don't expect your kid to get a bunch of scholarship money unless they're exceptionally academically gifted.

I disagree with much of the comments in regards to "don't expect your kid to get a bunch of scholarship money unless they're exceptionally academically gifted" type comments. There are lots of scholarships out there that are not merit or athletic based ONLY. Personally I think many high schools do a poor job of teaching students how to prepare for college when it comes to the financial aspects, such as how to find and apply for scholarships. I learned the hard way. I can understand why any reasonable person would quite after putting in so much time and effort to reap so little reward. But everything has a learning curve. The only thing that kept me going was that I needed the money and I knew my family could not afford college otherwise.

@Crystal: I didn't say "academically gifted", I said "exceptionally talented". That would include athletically talented.

The other option is special interests or profiles, such as "First-generation American Girl Scout".

Please give some examples of scholarships that "anyone" can get, and how many they give versus the number of applicants.

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