What's Financially Better? 4 Years College vs. Transferring from Community College

By Sara


Last Updated: February 17, 2023


Higher education can provide someone an opportunity to earn a higher income.

In addition, it can help you network and find a community anywhere you live. However, there is a debate about starting at a traditional, four year college or university versus starting a community college for a year or two and then transferring to a four year college to finish your degree.

There are benefits and drawbacks to each, the main difference being the financial cost of each option. Keep reading to read the major differences between both options. 



Benefits of Starting at a Community College

Some benefits of starting at a community college and transferring to a traditional university or college are: 

  • Lower tuition
  • Save money 
  • Prepare for a 4 year college
  • Small class sizes
  • Personalized attention 


Lower Tuition Costs

They have a lower cost of attendance. The average cost of tuition for a 2-year community college is $3,400 for one year. The average cost of tuition for a four year university is $35,551 a year.

This is a huge price difference. While a student is there, they can work to help save money for the remainder of two years at a four year university to avoid student loan debt. 


Prepare for a Four Year College 

Starting at community college can allow a student to prepare for a four year college.

Not all students are mentally ready to attend a more rigorous university. Students can take care of core-requisition classes like math and English to allow them to focus on their major core classes when they transfer.

There are also additional resources for students who transfer to a four year college to help them get acclimated. 


Smaller Class Sizes 

They have smaller class sizes, allowing students to get more personalized attention.

This can help a student transition from high school to a four year college with the small class size and personalized attention because they can ask their instructors for more help if they are struggling. 



Advantages of Transferring from a Community College

Transferring from a community college to a four year college has major advantages besides the financial benefit. Students who transfer can: 

  • Transfer credits toward a bachelor’s degree 
  • Opportunity for more college options and majors 
  • Gain experiences from a collegiate environment 


Transferring Credits

One of the biggest advances of transferring is that students can transfer credits.

The benefit of this is that students who start at a community college can take easier classes that will apply as credit toward their bachelor’s degree. Students won’t have to take as many courses that don’t apply to their major at a four year college which can help save money.

This allows students to make the most out of their educational experience and achieve their academic goals. 


More options 

When a student transfers to a four year college from a community college, they have more options of colleges to choose from because they have some more experiences. In addition, colleges allow a certain amount of transfer students, which can help them get into a more competitive college. 

This is also the same for more major options. For example, a student at a community college has two years to decide what they want to study at a four year university. Therefore, there are more options at a four year college than at a community college and having a specialized degree. 


College experience 

Students who start at a community college and transfer to a four year university can get the best of both worlds.

They can experience the lower costs of a community college while also gaining the collegiate experiences at a four year college. This can help students be more prepared for a four year college and truly get a better experience while at their four year university. 



Considerations When Transferring

When transferring from a community college to a four year university, there are certain considerations to have to ensure all credits are transferred and understand the financial implications. 


Transfer Policies 

Make sure to research the credits that can and cannot transfer to a four year college. Every college will have different policies, but most allow basic courses to transfer, while more specialized courses will not.

There also may be certain rules about the number of credits that can transfer. 



While going to a community college for two years can save money, a four-year college is still expensive for two years.

So either prepare to save for the cost of a four year college or look into scholarship and financial aid options. If you have scholarships or financial aid, look into what can transfer between institutions. There are transfer-specific financial aid and scholarship opportunities as well. 



Final Thoughts on Starting at Community College

Starting at a community college can allow you to knock out certain basic courses and gain more credits, all for a lower price, before transferring to a four year college.

A four year college can provide you with more major options to reach your career goals, but you do not have to pay the full cost if you start a community college.

This option can also allow a student who may not be as emotionally or academically prepared to succeed at a four year university after their two years at a community college.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli


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