Many families, especially those with students in the high-performing districts in Oakland County, are bound and determined to ensure their child’s admittance to a four-year college or university. While this is a good fit for some, for others, 18 is simply too young for a high-pressure environment away from home. Especially for teens who have been “helicopter parented,” being suddenly unmoored from the constant support and touchstone of their families is simply too much to take all at once.
Unfortunately, there is often extreme social pressure on both teens and their parents about “where are you going to school?” Students who don’t want to go away to school may not understand they have options — and often their parents also don’t think there are acceptable options. Yet the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that the average bachelor’s degree completion rate for community college transfers was about 60%, compared to the slightly less-than-50% completion rate for students who started in a four-year program at a college or university. For students who transferred after completing an associate degree, that percentage jumps to 71%.
Think about what exactly these statistics mean:
- Nearly half of all students who start at a four-year college or university will not complete their degree within six years.
- A high income level does not significantly change this statistic. Only half the students from families with an income of more than $90,000 will have a bachelor’s degree by age 24; only 1 in 17 students from families with an income less than $35,000 will graduate.
- More than two-thirds of students who complete an associate degree before transferring will complete their bachelor’s degrees within six years (including time spent at community college).
- As a point of comparison, the in-state rate per credit hour at Michigan State University is $513; at Oakland Community College, it is $92.
- More than 30% of all freshmen at four-year colleges and universities drop out. If they took 12 credit hours each semester, that is a cost of at least $12,000 for tuition alone, compared to a tuition cost of around $2,200 for the first year at a community college.
These statistics are even more tragic when you consider the more than 50% of students who don’t finish their degree are often saddled with crushing student debt and no increased earning power to compensate.
Lower cost not only lowers debt accumulation, it can allow young students to explore a variety of different topics, so that when they do transfer to a four-year institution, they have a much better idea of what they want to continue to study. It is not unusual for students to change majors, which is why colleges use a six-year completion rate as the statistical standard for success.
Another advantage can be freeing up money for a student to take a gap year after they’ve completed their associate degree. Students can also opt to go more slowly and work full or part-time while taking classes, to help them figure out what education they really need to meet their career goals.
There are many options for students to start their community college studies before graduating high school. In Michigan’s Oakland county, these options include dual enrollment, early college, Oakland Schools ACE program (a partnership with Oakland Community College), Oakland Technical Schools’ early college programs, and homeschooling to complete high school requirements with college coursework.
Of course, this does not even begin to explore the myriad skilled professions (e.g., master electricians, plumbers, carpenters, welders, etc.) that require intensive, multi-year apprenticeships. During a time as an apprentice, students are paid to work in their field of choice while also taking classes, often on the weekends. Those who complete an apprenticeship have no student debt and have skills that are and will continue to be in very high demand around the country.
As parents, we need to better connect with what our children want, what type of education best aligns with their interests and abilities, and be willing to buck against the constraints of thinking admission to a four-year college or university is the only reasonable option.
– Kathy Henry is an adoptive parent to two teenage boys. She is also a marketing consultant, business coach and copywriter who volunteers for several organizations, including the Beaumont Parenting Program.
- Why do so many students drop out of college? And what can be done about it?
- Graduate, Transfer, Graduate
- Oakland Community College: Early College