While exact figures for homeschoolers are not available, four of ten high school graduates begin their college career at community college. For some students it makes good sense to begin college with a dual enrollment courses or a two year degree from a community college, often followed by a transfer to a four year college.
Here are some key factors to think about if your homeschooler is considering enrollment in a community college:
The number one reason why many students consider community college is the lower cost. Community colleges have much lower tuition – often just a third of the cost of tuition at a public university. Take a look at these average 2015-2016 costs from the College Board
- Community colleges: around $3,345 for in-district tuition and fees
- Four year public colleges: around $9,410 for instate tuition and fees.
- Private colleges: average $32,405 for tuition and fees.
While some two year colleges offer housing, community college students are more likely to live at home, which can be a huge cost savings for room and board. Room and board at state universities is often as much as tuition.
Community college students are eligible for federal financial aid as are students who go to four year colleges. Students should carefully compare the options they are considering with the awareness that many four year colleges have scholarships they offer only to entering freshman. Sometimes a college with a more expensive list price may actually turn out to be a bargain for a student with high academic merit or high financial need. Still for many students though community college will be significantly less expensive than other options.
Many community colleges are open admissions and may not require an SAT or ACT test. This can offer an easy start to college for students who are less academically advanced or who struggle with testing. Community colleges may require entering students to take the COMPASS test for placement purposes. This test is offered on site and should not require significant preparation. Based on the results of COMPASS or other testing, remedial courses are available for students who need them. Policies vary but many state universities do not require students transferring from community college to provide SAT or ACT scores. Some students are not interested in “playing the game” in high school by preparing for more selective college admissions. For these students community college can provide an lower hassle route to getting into a college classroom.
Community colleges typically have small class sizes and the expectation that instructors will provide plenty of support and nurturing for students. Some homeschooled students may find this is an easier transition than going straight into large lecture sections at a state university. For students who don’t have a strong background in a particular core subject, such as math, community colleges offer an opportunity to get a stronger foundation before entering a four year college. Community colleges also offer programs with a career training focus. These programs may include
Many community colleges offer a very easy path for transfer to in state universities. Articulation agreements clearly spell out how a student’s credits will transfer. In many cases students can complete all of their general education requirements at the community college and then concentrate solely on major classes after they transfer. Research is important as states vary widely in what sorts of articulation agreements they offer. Some have statewide agreements which make it very easy. Others may have only agreements between specific community colleges and specific state institutions.
Some public colleges offer good transfer specific scholarships. Transferring can be more complex for students looking at private colleges. Homeschoolers who are seriously considering beginning a four year degree at community college, should try to meet with an adviser at the community college to carefully plan their strategy.
To learn more visit the American Association of Community Colleges.