Community College or University: Where Should I Start?

Education has taken many forms, from apprenticeships to internships to formal education. In the early 1900s, the Community College emerged as a new trend. Fullerton College, in 1913, is one of those colleges whose original intent was to educate the local community and create jobs that support the community.

Today, education is more open, available, and attractive due to the number of disciplines and even preparing students for careers that don’t exist today.

So where should a student start? Here are some options:

• Fullerton College costs $46 per unit, equivalent to $2,760 for a 60-unit program. There are a few other fees, such as health and bus fees. However, this is the most affordable option available to students still in or leaving high school, returning students who need to gain new skills, or adult learners looking to earn their first degree or prepare for a promotion at their existing workplace. Additionally, in California, high school students first entering a community college may be eligible for the “CA Promise Program,” which provides a free education when attending full-time. Community colleges also offer direct paths to a university in the form of “transfer” degrees to earn general education (usually around 24-28 units) and discipline-specific education (like business management, accounting, etc., usually about 18 to 30 units) for a more affordable and flexible option to earn degrees. In addition, most community college classrooms are much smaller than university classes allowing one-on-one interaction and a more helpful transition from high school to college. Community colleges also provide more extensive student services and career centers on campus.

• Another option is for students to attend a community college, like Fullerton College, for the first two years and then transfer to a university, like Cal State Fullerton, to complete a bachelor’s degree. Alternatively, they could start at the university and complete all four years. From the Cal State Fullerton website, students will pay approximately $3,539.17 if enrolled in 7 or more units or $2,333.17 if enrolled in 6 or fewer units per semester. If they attend all four years, a student is looking at $18,665 to $28,313. Attending community college for the first two years and transferring to the university can save students approximately $14,156. By completing their general education and exploring a major at a community college, students will be more assured of getting a degree that will give them access to a career of their choice. This scenario could cost around $17,000. Another option is private universities.

• One popular option in Orange County is Chapman University. According to their website, the costs are $62,400 to $87,670 for one year. While private universities often come with a higher price tag, they offer unique educational experiences, smaller class sizes, and specialized programs that can be advantageous for specific career paths.

Students must weigh the costs and benefits of each option and make an informed decision based on their goals and financial circumstances. Exposure to jobs, fields, tools, techniques, and more is the best way to find a career where you will be happy and make enough money to support yourself and your family someday.

Every school has academic counselors, and most have career centers to assist students. To investigate career earnings potential and which degree is most appropriate, students should ask their academic counselors, career center staff, and even professors that come from the field in which they are interested the following questions and for sources:

  • What are the job prospects for this degree or career goal?
  • What is the typical salary range for graduates in this field?
  • What are the potential career paths for someone with this degree?
  • Are there any certifications or additional training that are beneficial for this career?
  • What resources are available to help me explore and research different career options?

A college education continues to be the best investment for income earning over a lifetime, offering numerous long-term benefits.

First, higher education equips individuals with specialized knowledge and skills in demand in today’s job market.

Second, studies consistently show that individuals with a bachelor’s degree earn significantly higher average salaries than those with only a high school diploma.

Third, a college degree opens doors to a broad range of career opportunities and positions with better job security and financial stability.

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