Want Lower Student Loan Debt and Higher Pay? Try Community College

Written By:

communitycollegeOne of the big subjects of concern in recent years has been the rise in student loan debt. In 2011, outstanding student loan debt surpassed $1 trillion — and outstanding credit card debt, according to information from the Federal Reserve.

With education costs on the rise, many students wonder what they can do to beat costs and still make a good living. The answer might lie in the associate’s degree.

Community College Costs Less — And Associate’s Degrees Earn More

Graduates of community college come out with less student loan debt than those who attend four-year schools, and they might even be able to earn more at the outset. CNN Money reports on a study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, showing that almost 30% of Americans with associate’s degrees make more than those with bachelor’s degrees.

While the wage gap closes as those with bachelor’s degrees approach a mid-point in their careers, there’s no denying that, even at that point, many four-year grads are still paying off their student loans. Currently, the CNN story reports, it costs around $6,262 to complete a two-year degree at community college. Compare that to the tens of thousands of dollars many students pay to complete a degree at a public university. It gets even crazier — more than $150,000 — for students at private four-year schools.

[Free Resource: Check your free credit report and score]

A two-year grad with a good job (think dental hygienist making $70,000 a year) can easily pay off that $6,000 community college bill. On the other hand, many of those with four-year degrees find themselves making $10 to $20 an hour, trying to pay of close to $20,000 or more in student loans.

The difference is in the skills. According to the Georgetown center and the CNN article, those with community college degrees come out with “middle-skills” that are in demand. They have practical knowledge and skill sets that immediately translate into solid middle-class pay.

So, if you are thinking of going to college, and you are worried about student loans, it seems as an associate’s from a community college might be the way to go.

author avatar

Miranda is a freelance writer and professional blogger specializing in financial topics. Her work has appeared in numerous media, online and offline. Her blog is Planting Money Seeds.