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To Transfer or Not to Transfer: The Community College Dilemma

(Click on graph to enlarge) Pew Research Center
(Click on graph to enlarge)
Pew Research Center

Parents (and increasingly students) are asking us about transferring from a community college to a 4 year university from early in their high school careers and making transfer a primary option, rather than a Plan B.  Community college transfer became a more serious option when families were uncertain about admissions chances.  Now, younger students and their families are beginning to ask financially if they can afford a 4 year university, and transfer seems more economical.

However, costs are more complex than a numberThink of costs like this:  dollar amounts are an indication of value.  Now, what’s valuable?  (For more on value, see Art’s informative series about prudent planning)  Costs also are spread over time–immediate costs can be forgo-ing a purchase now, long term “sacrifices” are based on future goals and a vision.  What is your vision?

(Click on graph to enlarge) Pew Research Center
(Click on graph to enlarge)
Pew Research Center

So, back to the transfer question…costs can also include time and effort.  How effortless is it to get classes in a timely manner so students can transfer from a local community college to a 4 year university, given budget constraints and increasing enrollment?  (i.e. How many other people are trying to do exactly what you’re trying to do in transferring?  How long on average are students spending at a community college, before transferring?)  How many years overall am I willing to spend to earn my college degree?  5? 6?  How long after I transfer will it take me to earn my degree?  How much academic advising is available to help me transfer and make a decision about majors? What are the opportunity costs as well as potential financial (i.e. not earning money in a career or job, because I’m spending a 5th or 6th year studying for my degree) costs of transfer?

“To transfer or not to transfer” is an individual decision with multiple questions to be considered. Saving money may be the “spark”, but even that can be further scrutinized, starting with, “Why am I trying to save money?  What will the dollars be used for instead, and is that purchase more valuable than 4 year college tuition?  Why?”