You’ve landed on this article most likely because you’re looking for a way to save money toward your college education and you’ve heard that community college is definitely the way to go.

But is it??

Sadly, the reality is that a community college is no longer the best way to save, try out college, or improve your livelihood as it once was.

Here’s the question then: Are their better alternatives available now?  YES!

We’ll outline why community college actually fails when it comes to offering the most value, and then share the Top 5 Best Modern Alternatives to community college to help you save, get there faster, and enjoy the journey along the way.

How is Community College Supposed to Work?

For decades, community colleges were considered the number one way high school graduates and adult students could affordably begin their path toward a 4-year undergraduate degree. And admittedly, before technology evolved and offered better education solutions, these institutions were the most affordable option people had.

Consider that attending a community college full-time over two semesters generally comes with a price tag of roughly $4000 per semester. When you compare this to the price of tuition at an in-state public university, students are able to save about 50% on the cost of their first 2 years of their undergraduate degree.

Another supposed benefit of a community college education, particularly for adult students with families and jobs, is that they offer a more flexible schedule than a traditional 4-year school. Typically, community colleges offer classes at night and on weekends, so busy adults can try to fit learning into their busy lives. And, since community colleges are closer to home, the logic is that it could also convenient for busy adults to get to classes since there’s a shorter commute.

BUT with online education now available, is that really convenient any longer?? Do we want to drive to campus everyday or commute at all?

Why not take courses from your couch at home? Psst, keep reading and we’ll talk about that 🙂

Again, these benefits were definitely an improvement from what traditional colleges could offer, but there are even better options these days that offer more flexibility and an even SHORTER commute!

And finally, community colleges have always been an arena where students could explore their career options before making a choice. Some students know exactly what they want to be “when they grow up.” But for many, their career path isn’t as obvious and it’s helpful to be able to try out different classes to see what career may be right for them.

The Cons of Community College

In our estimation, community colleges are a bit like those old Model T cars people drove around during the turn of the 20th century. They were definitely an improvement over the horse and buggy, but that car wouldn’t be able to compete against the cars we have today because the technology has greatly improved.

Here’s why community colleges aren’t your best bet any longer:

No Longer the Most Affordable Option

While community colleges did offer students some benefits back in the day, the truth is they aren’t the most affordable option today. Sure, these institutions are cheaper than a 4-year school, but there is still a substantial cost of normally a few thousand dollars per year. And that doesn’t even include the cost of books, parking permits, gas for commuting, etc.

Requires a Large Commitment of Time

Also, students are still required to take 2 years as FULL-TIME student in order to get their associates degree. For busy working adults, this is still a large chunk of time to invest toward higher learning when the main goal is to get the bachelor’s degree as quickly as possible.

In many cases, getting an associates is not the right path as opposed to a bachelors directly.  Thus, limiting the Community College value.

In addition, while a community college is typically located nearby, it can still be an inconvenience to drive to campus multiple times per week. Yes, many community colleges offer their classes online, but their platforms are not very robust.

And so most students resign themselves to driving to classes each week, which is not easy if you have children and a full-time job.

Can’t Begin Learning Whenever You’re Ready

Community colleges have short enrollment windows, meaning you can’t begin your coursework any time you’d like year-round.   They have a rigid enrollment structures that fit the typical Fall/Spring courses.

If the semester begins in September, and you want to begin classes in October, you’re out of luck! You have to wait months or even a year to then enroll for that class.

Instead of learning when you want and how you want, you must wait for these small windows.

That just doesn’t work for many busy adults.

Your Credits May Not Transfer

Not all credits you take at a community college will necessarily be able to be transferred to a 4-year school.

Wait…what??

Yep, most people don’t realize that it’s not as easy as one would believe to get your eventual university to accept all of the community college courses for credit towards your degree.

That means one of two things: you’ll have less options when selecting your 4-year school, or you’ll have to take (and pay for) classes all over again.

This begs the question, “What was the point?”  If there are better ways to save going directly to a 4-year and avoiding this, why not go that direct path?? (Stay tuned, we’ll cover this!)

A Lack of Guidance

Unfortunately, with so many students these government entities must serve, along with the reality of their small and shrinking budgets, the guidance and support is often lacking at at community colleges and not what most students need to succeed.

As you can see, community colleges were once a great option for students, particularly adult students who wanted to save money toward their degree and be able to take classes at night or on weekends when they had some free time. But, like that old Model T Ford, there are newer, better options for today’s busy students, and we’re about to share those with you now.

Top 5 Best Alternatives to Community Colleges for 2020-2021

Here are the 5 best alternatives to community colleges to help you reach your goals more quickly and affordably:

  1. Free Courses for Credit

To get your bachelors degree you’ll need to complete 120 college credits.  Typically, you’ll spend thousands of dollars to get your first 60 credits within a 2-year timeframe at a community college. But there could be a much better option.

At OnlineDegree.com we offer FREE courses that could apply toward your college credit.  Not only are these courses 100% tuition-free, but you can complete them online, 24/7, completely on your own schedule.

Register for free, and try out our Smartplan to see which schools could be a good fit, and if our courses for credit could apply. The beauty of going this route is that it’s not linear like a community college.

You can enroll at your college while taking our courses at the same time, potentially earning your degree much faster!

Register now for free in 60 seconds >>

  1. CLEP Exams

CLEP stands for College Level Examination Program. This program was designed to help students earn college credit for knowledge they already possess. This knowledge could have come from advanced high school courses, independent reading and study, online coursework, or on-the-job training. By getting a passing score on the CLEP exam, students can earn three or more college credits at more than 2,900 U.S. colleges and universities, potentially earning their degree more efficiently and inexpensively.

  1. Tuition Discounts

Our goal at OnlineDegree.com is to make college more affordable. So we go out and organize discounts for you on your behalf at universities.

Discounts that could immediately lower the cost of tuition at your university!

They’re awesome because rather than spending a lot of time applying for scholarships and grants (with no guarantee you’ll get them despite all of that time and effort), these discounts instantly lower the cost of your education.

Far better option for busy adults than looking for scholarships all weekend.

Get started, and see which schools offer these discounts. It’s easy to use: OnlineDegree.com acts as a college savings engine. You tell us what you need and we’ll find you the colleges and universities that meet your criteria, and how you could potentially save!

Need a school that’s adult friendly? We got you.

Want to know which colleges have robust online programs? We got you.

Which ones don’t require SAT or ACT scores?

Which waive their application fees and include laptops and books in the cost of their tuition?

We got you. 🙂

See how it works! We can find these schools for you plus the ones that accept our free course credits, potentially saving you THOUSANDS on your tuition.

  1. Enroll Directly at a 4-Year School

I know this sounds surprising, but the reality is that online adult-friendly universities could already be

  1. More affordable
  2. Available for enrollment at any time to get started, and
  3. Faster through their accelerated programs.

You could just enroll directly at these 4 year colleges, get a career-ready degree faster and completely online, which is how busy adults want to earn their degree.

Plus, with the ways we’re showing you to potentially save in this article, you can have your cake and eat it too!  Going directly towards your bachelors and saving money and time.

 

  1. Get a Certification Instead

Most people don’t realize there are a ton of great paying careers in high demand industries that don’t require a degree or any prior experience!

In most cases, all you need is a certification that takes a fraction of the time and cost of a degree.

You could be ready for that new career in as little as three months!  No college degree needed.

We have a whole list of certifications you can check out here.

As an example, Medical Billing and Coding is a great career in the growing field of healthcare. These professionals often work from home or in an office, managing and organizing health information data for hospitals or medical offices.  AND, making a great salary of, on average, $43,000 a year based on latest BLS data.

All you need to get started toward this rewarding and well-paying career is a good certification program, and we can match you up with the right one. Take our free quiz:

Take the Quiz! >

Putting it All Together

As you can see, there are far better modern alternatives than community colleges to meet your education goals.

Options that could get you to your main goal more quickly and affordably: A better life for you and your family.

Here’s what we suggest you do next:

Register for free and get a free Smartplan to figure out which schools may be a great fit for your career goals. In addition, our Smartplan will help you identify schools that could be a great fit for you, find ways to save and potentially earn your degree much faster!

In addition to free courses, we’re able to match you up with schools that fit other learning criteria, such as:

  • All Online
  • Accelerated programs
  • Don’t require SAT or ACT scores
  • No application fees
  • Could include laptops and books in the cost of tuition
  • And more

Get started toward your degree and let OnlineDegree.com help you so you could save and get there faster!

Get Started for Free! >

 

About the Author
Grant Aldrich

Grant founded OnlineDegree.com with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.