To all of you trust fund students, whose parents saved money from when you were young so that they could blow it all away on the best possible college education money could buy. If you have been shackled into the college’s credit system for over a year it may be too late for you. But freshman, who are experiencing their first semester, let me save you over forty thousand dollars so mom and dad can buy you a nice car: Drop out now. Go to a local Community College around your hometown, make sure what mom and dad are spending their nest egg on is really what you want to do for a job, and transfer to that dream university after two years.
Let’s look at orders of magnitude. A university can cost between $20-60k annually for an average student who got a scholarship or two from high school and wrote a moving acceptance letter. Community College? Monroe Community College, the prominent Community College in Rochester, costs about $3,500 per year and about double that if you are from out of state. What do you give up for an education that costs about ten times less? Well, you lose the teachers that are so focused on their own research that they have less time for their students. Of course the chances that your professor wrote the textbook for the course goes down at a Community College (unless your professors are from the physics department), but do you really care if your award winning research professor at your expensive university is at the chalkboard teaching you econ 101, introductory calculus, or 1+1=2? At the freshman and sophomore level of classes, the quality of education per dollar at a community college is superior to any other institution. After two years, work hard, and you can get into your dream university while saving $40k. Your transcript will look the same at the end of four years, I promise.
I’ve done this and I must add that I am proud of MCC. I went to MCC for two years. I worked really hard at Community College because I knew that someday my grades would be a paycheck. Education there is what you make it. If you really like what you study, you will thrive in whatever classroom you are put in and that will make you stand out. I saw many of my friends change majors or take extra time to graduate and I thought, “At least an extra year costs $3,500 and not $35,000!.” I got lucky because I knew what I wanted to do when I graduated high school, but not everyone is that lucky. If you are just going to college to “explore,” then paying thousands of dollars per credit hour is the wrong way to do it. I transferred to UR with a modest scholarship and finished my engineering degree in two years because all of my credits transferred. I paid half of what the average person pays and my diploma has the same University seal on it. I’ll even send you pictures of it upon request. Where am I now? Getting my Ph.D. Accepted into a Ph.D. program after graduating from Community College? Yes, all that and more because, like many students, I have financed my own education. You know what else I save on? Loan interest. I had to take out some private loans but I am putting as much as I can towards them to get them down, like every other student who pays for their schooling. I find my debt to be manageable; something I will pay off in a year or two. But suppose your parents pay for college, then you don’t really care. In this case consider saving your parents some money for two years at a community college (or a state school), and then maybe mom and dad can get you a car too.
Peter Thayer is a graduate student in
the Department of Chemistry.