In most cases, the first two years of college are pretty much the same no matter where you go. The core requirements and subjects are very similar. Since college tuition costs are only expected to increase, it makes sense for many students to go to community college for their first year or two. This decreases the cost of tuition which will reduce the size of any loans needed and save students thousands of dollars per year.
It is also important to know that the vast majority of students don't graduate on-time. Depending on which study/report you read, anywhere from 60-80% of students take more than four years to earn their degree. In fact, it is not uncommon for students to take up to 6 years to earn a bachelor's. This opens up students to a higher amount of debt than they had previously planned. However, saving on tuition costs isn't the only advantage that attending a community college has to offer students.
Lower Living Expenses
It is easy to focus on cost of tuition but going away to college entails considerable room and board charges and other living expenses. Room and board charges alone average nearly $10,000 per year. Living at home while attending community college, even if paying a reasonable rent, will be much more cost-effective. On top of this, students will be in a familiar place which may help make the college transition easier.
Time to Discover Your Path
Roughly one-third of college students transfer colleges. Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine what this is attributed to. For some, they are simply transferring from a community college to a 4-year university. Others may be transferring because of a change if thier major or that another college can better fit their needs. These transfers come with the risks of losing credits meaning more money has to be spent on tuition and other costs.
Going to a community college buys a student time in case they decide to change their major. They can also take more time to evaluate other colleges and universities on top of any research and visits they made during high school.
Depending on the type of student you are, the college environment may be as or even more important than the actual courses. Especially during the first year or two. Going away to a 4-year college or university brings extra responsibilities, challenges, temptations, and stresses that many students are ill-prepared to handle.
Nearly half of all college students dropout. This is the largest cost of going to college that a student can face. No one (especially parents) want to see their student go away to college, accumulate a high amount of debt, and then not realize the payoff (degree) at the end. Imagine being responsible for $10-20,000 in loans that now need to be paid back but not having the ability to attain the higher paying jobs that an associate's or bachelor's degree makes possible. Parents who co-signed for private student loans don't want to imagine this either. Going to a community college makes the financial risk of dropping out much less devastating.
Community colleges can offer many students a taste of the college experience with a better opportunity to balance the new pressures of being in college. Additionally, it will be easier on their wallet. If the student moves on in their college journey, they will be better prepared, more confident of their path, and should have much less debt to pay back.