Students Saving Thousands of Dollars Going to Community College after High School


In this season of graduations, students are finding community colleges to be a good next step after high school.

Starting at community college allows students to stay closer to home, get a better understanding of their college choices and cut costs. 

NBC's Tracie Potts spoke with a student who said she saved tens of thousands of dollars by going to community college.

At Frederick Community College in Maryland, Maureen McClellan is studying to be a surgical technician. She started college classes in high school.

"I started with math," McClellan said. "I took college algebra." She's graduating with an associate's degree, but that's just a start.

"I'll then be transferring to Mount Saint Mary's for a degree in hopefully health science," McClellan said.

She's part of a growing trend. According to the Community College Research Center, almost half of all students who completed a four-year degree started at a two-year school.

McClellan said she likes the smaller classes. "You get to know the people in your class," McClellan said. "It's more personable." Her parents like the price tag. Community colleges can cost half as much as four-year schools. Some cost even less, and some are free. 

McClellan estimates she saved $32,000 by getting the basics done at a community college.

"Education's important, but let's do it as economically feasible as possible so you are not coming out at the end of it facing this huge debt," McClellan said.

Planning is important. Counselors help students avoid classes that don't transfer, which would waste time and money. "If they know that they want to go to a particular four-year school, then we can work our way backwards to say, 'This is what they need,'" transfer services counselor Marsha Mason-Sowell said.McClellan has already lined up a summer job as a surgical technician.

Enrollment at community colleges has been dropping since the recession. Educators think it might be because there are fewer community colleges in recent years, as some are converting to four-year schools or offering four-year degrees.

You can watch the special report, "Cutting College Costs," in the video posted above.

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