Smart people do community college

Joseph Martin, Columnist

For the past decade, average college tuition and fees have been on the rise. Many factors have contributed to these trends, including declining state funding for public universities, increases in administrative and support staff and investments in new facilities and technology. Additionally, the expanding demand for higher education has also driven up tuition costs.

At UT, this problem is just as prevalent. Average flat tuition rates ring up at $11,752 for in-state students and $40,996 for out-of-state students, making UT approximately $500 more expensive than the national in-state average. As students weigh their options for the most cost-efficient ways to invest in their future, it’s time for many to consider the financial and career benefits of a community college education. 

Regardless of their major, undergraduate students should consider taking community college classes to knock out general education requirements.

One such option is UT’s Path to Admission through Co-Enrollment program where, according to the Office of Admissions website, participants take one class per semester at UT their freshman year while completing most of their coursework at Austin Community College. Students who complete the requirements can then enroll as full-time undergraduates in qualifying majors at UT.

Without question, tuition rates at local community colleges have significant advantages. While three credit hours at ACC cost on average $858, the same credits would cost around $2,600 at UT. Despite these savings, there should be no compromise in quality. 

Afif Amin, an economics sophomore, considers his time in PACE to have been highly profitable.

“They spend so much time trying to make the transition (to full enrollment at UT) as smooth as humanly possible,” Amin said. “I actually think that the program might prepare you more for college than a normal first year here.”

University professors focus more on research and publishing academic works, compared to community college professors, whose primary focus is teaching. In my experience, the quality of ACC classes rivals those at UT. Why should students pay more for online and asynchronous classes done through UT than for the same classes at ACC? 

Additionally, the professor-to-student ratio at community colleges is typically smaller. Smaller classes mean students are able to foster closer relationships with their professors and receive more individual attention, which can be instrumental to students’ success. 

Michael Washington, UT associate director of admissions, said this personalized attention, particularly as it relates to academic advising, is a considerable pro of the PACE program for freshmen or sophomores intent on transferring to UT.

“Students in the PACE program get probably more touches than any other student on campus in terms of actual advising because they have these weekly seminars, which essentially are advising sessions where we track those students all the way through,” Washington said. “This cohort of students perhaps gets as much advising, if not more, than any of the students that I know of on campus. So it’s a pretty extensive operation.”

Before maxing out on out-of-residence undergraduate credit hours with a cheaper alternative, students must keep in mind that any credit hours completed in this manner won’t weigh on their UT GPA. 

Since only grades acquired in more difficult upper-division classes will be reflected on their student transcript, some students might hesitate. It’s important to note, though, that it presents a great opportunity for strategic class-taking because difficult classes taken out-of-residence won’t damage student GPAs. 

Despite the stigma surrounding community college, in many ways, it’s just a more cost-effective way of working towards the same undergraduate degree. Use it while you can!

Martin is a advertising and radio-television-film junior from Rockwall, TX.