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Students Tackle High College Costs By Starting At Community College

The entrance to Bunker Hill Community College (CC Chapman/Flickr)

The entrance to Bunker Hill Community College (CC Chapman/Flickr)

At more than $40,000 a year and rising for tuition, room and board at many private colleges, the price tag is beyond the reach of an increasing number of middle class families.

Even public colleges have become costly investments. And in tough economic times, many students and their families are unable or reluctant to take on the huge debt required to cover the cost of tuition, room and board — not to mention books, pizza and other essentials.

There is a more affordable route to a four-year degree that a growing number of college students are choosing. They’re starting at a two-year community college and then transferring to a four-year school, which dramatically lowers the price of a four-year degree.

On average, tuition and fees at public community colleges cost about $2,700 a year — a relative bargain.

And here in Massachusetts, a new program is making it easier for community college students to continue on to a four-year degree program. Under the program, students from community colleges across the state who maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or better, can attend the University of Massachusetts tuition free.

That’s what Brenna Pevato is planning to do. Prevato, 19-years-old from Ludlow, Mass., enrolled in Holyoke Community College last fall. She plans to get her Associates Degree and then transfer to UMass.

“My parents are definitely saving a lot of money, which is really nice” Prevato said. “So I will be able to start my career without a lot of debt.”


  • Brenna Prevato, student, Holyoke Community College
  • William Messner, president, Holyoke Community College
  • Stephen Handel, director of the College Board’s National Office of Community College Initiatives


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  • Alex G.

    This show is misleading. The program of free tuition as long as one graduates community college with a good GPA is free “tuition” only. It does not cover the cost of what the state colleges call “fees” at all. The fees are at least half the cost of going to a Massachusetts university, and they are great enough that it’s necessary for most ordinary folk to take out loans in order to attend. Although t he loans taken out should still be small enough that federal loans only should suffice. It is still a good savings though, but this situation needs to be clarified.

    • Wordlass

      Yes, this is true — once you transfer in your junior year you will still have to pay the fees. Still, the overall costs are MUCH less that what you would pay at a private college and you’ve already knocked off 2 years worth of credits for a song! Don’t know if it was mentioned in the feed, but we pay for our son’s tuition/fees using a monthly payment plan, too. Spread out over 9 months it’s very affordable and our son can contribute because he works part time. It’s good for him to bear some of that responsibility because then he’s more likely to take it seriously. When I think about the classes I cut in college just because I could . . . it really never occurred to me that each of those classes had a price tag attached because I didn’t foot the bill. But my son gets it and is a better student because of it.

  • Liz

    California students have been taking advantage of the community college option for years, and it’s good to see the trend finally making inroads here on the East coast.

  • Chris

    Best teachers I had were at the community college before I transferred to Rutgers. Really outstanding educators. I was very happily surprised.

  • Anonymous

    This is what I did in Arizona in the 1990s. The first two years of college were going to be filled with core requirements outside of my discipline, anyway. Why not fill them in a way that that would leave me with more money for grad school?

  • kalberque

    I went to community college in Texas, state school in Texas and graduate school at Boston College. I was able to graduate with little debt and received a quality education.

    Also, I understand that some community colleges in Texas have agreements with 4 year institution that allow students to receive bachelors degrees from 4 year colleges while remaining at the community college. This is an interesting concept that other states should replicate.

    I’m a big proponent. The best teachers that I ever had were at community college. So glad they are talking about this.

  • Bob

    I graduated Quinsigamond Community College and then went on to gain my BS degree from a private, four-year engineering college. The private college accepted ALL credits and I started as a Junior in good standing. Interestingly, the ratio of excellent-to-mediocre professors was the same in both schools. The community college system is an outstanding resource and compares quite favorably with its much more expensive competition. Tuition at the community college was about one-tenth the price of the private.

  • Aajay

    Please excuse typing with numbness in hands –I’m 85 years old and went to a private “Junior College ” for two years and transferred with full credit to the Univ. of Conn. where I received a BA and MA. so all you youngsters can stop “reinventing the wheel”. My parents sent me to a Jr College as I got a scholarsip and could live at home and woulde be cheaper.. i considered myself lucky to be the first one in my extended family to go to college and no nonsense about a “college experience”. I was just 17 when graduated HS so I don’t think I would have survived in a four year college, expecially with all the older GIs. I had absolutely excellent teachers, small classes and have always been proud of my experience. Of course, in those days there were high standards even for JR colleges not just taking evey HS graduate who walks in the door regardless of his/her previous school record–just saying ____

    • Alex G.

      Really? I thought that community colleges, almost by definition, have always taken all students who apply, who can prove they graduated from a high school or earned a GED, and (in some cases) can pass the entrance test for basic skills if they didn’t pass, say, algebra. They are, after all “community colleges,” which to me means they are open to the “community” and that excluding people is not a goal.

      • Wordlass

        I’m not sure I understand your question because that’s pretty much what was stated in the story. There is no such guarantee about the 4-year college, however. If you just decided to apply to UMass you would need to go through a fairly traditional application process, but if you TRANSFER to UMass from a CC you do NOT have to go through all that.

  • Roseyrose Obas

    you should put all the communtiy colleges name and there amountes  on the side

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