Community college is getting cheaper for more folks — and in some places, is actually tuition-free. Multiple states now have free community-college programs.
Even if you don’t live in one of those states, though, you can still land significant savings. To keep costs low without sacrificing the quality of your higher education, start your search for the right school by reviewing rankings such as the recent WalletHub report on the best and worst community colleges for your money in 2017.
For the report, WalletHub analyzed more than 700 institutions that are members of the American Association of Community Colleges. The website examined 14 factors, such as tuition and fees, student-faculty ratios, and how graduates’ starting salaries compare with the cost of their education. Each college was then scored on a 100-point scale
The No. 1 ranked school, Minnesota’s Leech Lake Tribal College, earned a total score of 69 out of 100. The lowest-ranked school, South Dakota’s Kilian Community College, came in at No. 728 with a total score of 28.56 out of 100.
The 10 highest-ranked community colleges — and their total scores — are:
- Leech Lake Tribal College (Minnesota) — 69
- Cochise County Community College District (Arizona) — 65.69
- Southwest Wisconsin Technical College — 63.28
- Stella and Charles Guttman Community College (New York) — 60.77
- Blackfeet Community College (Montana) — 60.68
- Aaniiih Nakoda College (Montana) — 60.41
- Ilisagvik College (Alaska) — 60.32
- Northern Oklahoma College — 60.08
- Mesalands Community College (New Mexico) — 59.83
- Lake Area Technical Institute (South Dakota) — 59.23
The value of a community college education
According to the nonprofit College Board, for the recently concluded 2016-2017 academic year, tuition and fees for a full-time, in-state undergraduate student averaged:
- $3,520 at public two-year institutions
- $9,650 at public four-year institutions
So the average full-time, in-state undergraduate would save at $12,260 on tuition and fees alone by spending two years at a public community college, then finishing the final two years at a public four-year institution.
This method for saving money on a college education is one we mention often here. As Money Talks News contributor Yes, You Can Afford College: 6 Money-Saving Tips“:wrote in “
“Community colleges are usually much more economical than four-year schools. It can even be easier to get scholarships from a community college, because the competition is not as stiff. I got my best financial aid from a community college before I transferred to my four-year school. In fact, I was able to avoid any school debt while I earned my associate of arts degree there.”
More states offering free community college programs
So far this year, four states have introduced free community-college programs, CNBC reports. They are:
- Rhode Island
These states join three others that already have such programs:
Thirteen more states have introduced legislation this year for similar programs, according to the CNBC report.
Additionally, New York now offers an Excelsior Scholarship, the first in the U.S. to cover four years of tuition without requirements for academic performance.
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