Coronavirus has made community college a more popular college choice.

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With the coronavirus pandemic changing the essence of campus life, at least temporarily, rising freshmen and some current college students are eyeing community college as a better option for the fall. A closer look at the appeal and some obstacles to watch out for.

Staying local Parents and students are both rethinking the idea of college hundreds or even thousands of miles away from home. Community colleges generally don’t house students and serve a population within a reasonable driving distance of campus. Like their four-year counterparts, they moved classes online when COVID-19 closed campuses.

By your teen starting here, you can worry less about how you’ll bring your student home from college if another COVID-19 spike cancels in-person classes or if your child contracts the virus. For your student, it addresses those same issues. 

Managing college costs For families who’ve been negatively impacted financially by the pandemic, the much cheaper cost of community college puts less strain on the family budget. For some freshmen, the idea of paying a full, four-year tuition for a year of general education courses, which may be online, isn’t cost effective. Speaking of those online classes.

Taking online classes Many current college students were unhappy taking their spring semester classes online. The thought of repeating that scenario in the fall has some considering whether they want to transfer or take a year off. Like incoming freshmen, they don’t want to pay full tuition for a semester where they won’t be receiving the college experience they signed up for—interacting with fellow students and professors in-person, working in labs, socializing outside of the classroom, etc. A semester of online classes at a community college is cheaper for what many will consider a similar college experience and a student can return to their four-year college the following semester if circumstances change.

Keeping on track to earn a bachelor’s degree Taking classes at a community college instead of deferring college for a year or taking a gap year, helps a student stay on track to graduate college with their bachelor’s degree in the timeframe they originally planned. Using the year to earn credits in general education courses, which more easily transfer to a four-year college, allows a student to begin their career on time and start earning real money faster than if they’d taken a year off.

Considering the downsides By enrolling full-time or taking a few classes at a community college first, a student can face some issues. Make sure yours checks out these potential bumps in the road before they make the decision to attend a community college even for just a semester.

  • If an incoming freshman decides to enroll at community college instead of the four-year institution where they placed a deposit, they will need to reapply for admission to the four-year school. They will now apply as a transfer student, not an incoming freshman.
  • Transferring college credits isn’t always a smooth experience. Credits transfer best between colleges that have an articulation agreement, meaning the four-year school agrees to accept all credits from this community college. That arrangement is usually between public universities in the same state as the community college. Generally, private and out-of-state four-year colleges don’t accept all of a student’s community college’s credits when they transfer in. Will that set your student back financially and delay the start of their career?
  • Some four-year colleges only allow students to transfer in once they’ve earned 60 credits at a community college or other institution. This won’t work well for a student who wants to spend only a semester or a year in community college.

 COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on colleges as they attempt to plan for the fall semester. If community college seems like the smarter move for your student in this environment, then discuss this option with them.