How I Used Community College to Cut down My Student Loans by 73%

community college
  • The average college debt is $46,783
  • A 2-year community college degree cost $11,000 
  • A public university cost $16,400 per year
  • An average financial aid package is $9,000 per year
  • A university degree with financial aid and community college can cost $7,900 

 The Average College Debt is $46,783

You can expect to pay only $8,000 for a bachelor’s degree if you go to community college first. Wow… imagine shaving your debt payments by that much. Don’t pay the average college debt of $46,783. Yet many people still neglect this option and choose to go to a university the traditional way. Regardless, education is invaluable and earns you $4.5 million more over your lifetime! Read more about it here.

The truth is community colleges are stigmatized as being a place for failures, losers, and “people who couldn’t get into a real university”. However, this is far from the truth. Community college helps people figure out exactly what they want to do with their life and save money.

You Can Use Community as a Low-Cost Test Run for College

When you are 18 years old you are often confused about what to study. Community college is the perfect place for you to explore topics and figure out what you like. Additionally, during your first two years of university, you take the same intro courses anyways, whether you are at Harvard or some random community college.  Even if you decide that college is just not for you, you only lose about $5,000 as opposed to $30,000 at some expensive private university – community college is the perfect place to decide if higher education is right for you.

A Two Year Community College Degree Cost $11,000

For our cost breakdown, I took a look at available information online and calculated a basic model of what the cost looks like for both options: (1) going to community college first and (2) going to a university straight from high school. And, going to community college is just cheap. I used Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) for my analysis. First off, your associate’s degree cost $180 per credit and you need 61 credits to graduate with a computer science degree:

“Thus, the total cost, without any financial aid, is $11,000 for an associate’s degree.”

After you have graduated, you are expected to earn about $ 41,000 if you choose to stop your education here. In just one year after graduation, you can pay off your degree and still have a ton of money left over and live a comfortable life as a 21-year-old – until other things like marriage, a house, and other things start showing up.

University Cost $16,400 Per Year

But if you choose to go to a university instead, community colleges have guaranteed admissions to top universities. With a 3.3 GPA or higher, you are automatically admitted to the University of Virginia (UVA), one of the top 5 public universities in America according to, from NOVA. There are a ton of other schools with guaranteed admission at NOVA, including George Mason, VCU, William and Mary, and Georgetown University, which requires a 4.0 GPA.

For our example, let’s continue your education and enter UVA as a junior. At UVA, you can expect to pay $32,800 for your last two years of college. Thus the combined cost of 2 years of community college and 2 years of university is $43,800, without any financial aid factored in yet. On the other hand, if you had gone directly from high school to UVA, you would have paid $65,600.

“You just graduated with the same degree and paid $21.8K less…”

The Average Financial Aid Package is $9,000 per Year

Lastly, let us apply financial aid to both choices. The average financial aid per year for students from 2017 to 2018 was $9,000. So we can multiply that by 4 years. In the end, you can expect to pay only $7,900 for a bachelor’s degree for our community college example and $29,800 for a traditional student who went directly to UVA.

I did not factor in the cost of rent, food, and travel since this is a comparison of tuition cost only – and I just wanted to make a simple point – that from a cost perspective, community college is king.

In Summary 

I went to community college and went through exactly what I mentioned above. The extra cost for things like rent, food, and travel totaled to $20,000 on top of the $8,000 for my degree. Although I did miss out on a true freshman experience, I do not regret a thing. I even ended up getting a masters since it was much more affordable now. Do not be afraid of the stigma around community college, use it to your advantage – since I am sure this is probably one of the reasons why it is still so affordable.


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