For many people, community college represents a last resort after getting rejected from your college of choice, or worse, failing out of school after a semester or two. Some people think that community college automatically means “broke”. But a two-year degree is not just for people who can’t afford a university or have been rejected from their top choice school. It does not remove your opportunity for a bachelor’s degree down the road.  It is not an either/or choice.

In fact, it’s a way to get halfway to your goal of a bachelor’s with a skill set already in place, less debt, and connections to professionals in the field.

An associate degree at a community college should be a plan A, not a last resort.Line-Divider

Here are 8 reasons why.

1. The professors

Many community colleges offer adjunct positions to professionals that work in the field. The benefit to students is that you are receiving instruction from an individual who is currently employed in their expertise, up on the latest trends and ideas, and able to give you job connections after graduation. And unlike a traditional university, professors aren’t required to do research and publish in journals. Their focus is solely on teaching you.

2. The cost

Of course it’s true that community college is lower in price than a traditional university, but there are other cost benefits to consider. Take for example your ability to work. Since community college has a higher percentage of non-traditional students, the class schedules often reflect that, allowing for students to work part or full-time while attending school. If you’re a freshman at a private university, you may not even be allowed to bring a car! When factoring in the cost of schooling, it’s important to not just look at the price difference for tuition, but your earning potential while in school as well.

3. A higher chance of success

Psychologists have acknowledged that rewards inspire and motivate humans. In an article called The Secret to Achieving a Big Goal,

Structuring your day to give you small hits of dopamine when you accomplish something keeps the ‘reward engine’ engaged and will fuel you to perform longer and better, even if the task is menial.

If we apply this concept to a career– a goal that takes much longer than a day– we can deduce that accomplishing your goal in incremental steps gives you more motivation than without. You’d like to be a doctor for example. This goal will take at least 12 years to complete. However, a two year degree, which leads to another two years for your bachelors, which leads to med school, then residency, will be easier on the human psyche than simply thinking about the end goal of running a private practice.

4. A plan for the unexpected

When you’re 18 and right out of high school, you might think you have the next four to eight years to focus on your career and education, but for many of us – financial issues, relationships, and other life events interrupt the college life we planned. The college dropout rate for four year schools is a whopping 59%. That’s a lot of money with nothing to show for it. The likelihood of completing an associate degree is higher, since it takes less time and money. You can always keep climbing for that next degree, but you’ll have something that you can use under your belt should life get in the way.

5. Connections in the community

College is as much about networking and contacts as it is about the actual learning. Community college is in its essence, for the community. Local businesses and industries often look for recent community college graduates — especially in technical jobs — because they know that the hands-on training and practical skills taught will benefit their companies. If you aren’t sure how to get your foot in the door with a particular industry, a community college with a relevant degree program will help tremendously.

6. Smaller class sizes

Community colleges aren’t full of kids in lecture halls. You will get more one on one attention because the average class size is between 25-35 students.

7. Better preparation for more education

Did you know that students who complete an associate degree do better at a four year university? Community college gives you two years to explore, mature, and learn important study habits. There’s also a better chance that after two years, you will know more concretely what it is you want to study and therefore be more motivated to succeed.

8. More marketability in the field

Imagine two applicants for the same position at a news station. All other strengths being equal, one has a bachelor’s degree in Communications. The other has an associate degree in Broadcast Cinema and  a bachelor’s degree in Communications. Who are you more likely to hire (even though the years of education are the same)?

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Don’t just take our word for it…

The higher education system is undergoing a radical transformation in the wake of rising tuition costs and the availability of online learning. The status quo is changing. President Obama just recently announced his plan to give any student willing to work for it — two free years of community college…

We’ll make that benefit #9 sealed with the White House stamp of approval.