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Okay, you think you have this college thing all figured out. You poured through a dozen financial aid forms, kicked the most expensive schools off your list, checked out your borrowing options and are now trying to convince your child to think less about English literature and more about engineering. But even among smart parents, there are areas of misinformation and myths about college costs. However, given the fact that four years at an in-state public college costs an average of $71,500 and $240,000 for an elite private school, it pays to understand these five myths and how to beat them.
No, your child will not necessarily be crippled financially by student loans. While you might read horror stories of people graduating with more than $35,000 in student loans, this is often due to the increasing amount of time that young people are taking to earn their degrees. This may shock you but only 32% of students at public colleges and 52% at private schools got out in four years. It's more common for students to take as many as six years to graduate. On the other hand, at the more selective schools 85% of the students finish in four years. And the schools usually have strong alumni networks that can help their graduates find jobs. The truth is that if your child attends a good school and graduates on time with great skills and good contacts, borrowing the money can be well worth it.
Busting myth #5
Despite what you might read, starting at a community college and then transferring is not necessarily a great way to cut the costs of getting a BA. The problem is that students who start at a two-year community college are less likely to get their bachelor’s degree. Part of the reason for this is that many four-year colleges make it tough to transfer credits. Two-thirds of the states have articulation agreements, which ensure that community-college courses will be accepted at their four-year schools but there are many loopholes. As an example of this, they may allow transfers only if the student has a certain GPA or they may be able to use discretion in terms of the credits they will accept. And these articulation agreements should not be confused with a guarantee that your child will get a slot at a four-year college. Plus, if your child does not have a strong peer group, this can make it hard for him or her to stay focused.
If you would like to save money by having your child start at a community college, make sure that there is one in your area that offers a guaranteed transfer to a four-year school. And make sure you talk with the admissions office at the four-your school your child would like to attend about its transfer requirements and how many students it accepts from two-year colleges. The good news is that if your child starts at a two-year school and then successfully transfers the odds of him or her getting a BA degree is as good as for the four-year students.
Finally, if you’re wondering why college costs so much these days, here’s a video featuring two professors at William & Mary College who have written a book that answers this question.