Community College Considerations for Homeschoolers

buildingWhile 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 consider if your homeschooler may attend community college.

Cost
The number one reason why many students choose 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 2018-2019 costs from the College Board

  •  Community colleges: around $3,500 for in-district tuition and fees
  •  Four year public colleges: around $9,910 for instate tuition and fees.
  •  Private colleges: average $34,700 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 attend 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.

Easy Admissions
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 a placement test such as the COMPASS test. Placement tests are typically offered on site and should not require significant preparation. Based on the results of placement test remedial courses are available for students who need them. Policies vary but some  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 beginning college and completing a two or four year degree.

Academics
Community colleges typically have small class sizes and the expectation that instructors will provide support and nurturing to students. Some homeschooled students may find this is a smoother transition than beginning with large lecture sections at a state university. For students who may have less 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.  Some community colleges also offer honors programs for their strongest students. Community colleges also offer programs with trade or technical career preparation. These programs vary by area. Some common examples include HVAC, dental hygiene, construction technology, nursing, computer information systems,  graphic design, and paralegal.

Campus Life
Many community colleges offer a full school experience beyond that classroom including traditional school activities like theater, newspaper, clubs, and programs such as invited speakers or music groups.  Phi Theta Kappa is the national honorary for two year colleges. and many chapters are active in education and community service. While the majority of community college students live at home with parents or on their own, there are some community colleges that offer on campus housing. This option can be ideal for a student who is ready for residential college living but needs a more nurturing academic environment. About 50,000 students across the US participate in sports teams at community and technical colleges.

Transferring
Many community colleges offer an 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 transfer specific scholarships. Transferring credits 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. Not all two year degrees will be the same when it comes to transferring to a four year degree. Many more technically focused degrees may feed directly into a career path, but not include the general education courses expected to transfer for a four year degree. Students always have the best chance to graduate on time when they regularly seek out advising and evaluate their progress toward their degree.

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