The way that the college education system is set up, there is in-state tuition and out-of-state tuition. At the community college level (no dorms, students expected to live at home), there is the level of “resident” (live within the community the college is located in, aka, you are close enough to commute to college), “in-state”, and “out-of-state”. Each of those levels has a different tuition value.
Can’t I just play Intertops poker bonus, win the mega jackpot, and not think about college tuition and financial aid? Okay, back to reality.
How does community college tuition work, examples of two colleges
Here are tuition figures for Oakton Community College (Cook County, Illinois) — assume 18 credit hours per semester:
- Residents of district 535 — $136.25 per credit hour ($4,905 per year)
- Illinois residents, out of district — $367.00 per credit hour. ($13,212 per year)
- Out of state residents — $439 per credit hour. ($15,804 per year)
- International Students (with visas) — $439 ($15,804 per year)
The University of Illinois tuition:
- Illinois residents: $17,138-$22,324 per year
- Out-of-state residents, $35,110-$42,796 per year
- International Students, $36,018-$45,774 per year
Illinois has a “Tuition Guaranteed Law” that says that the tuition you pay your first year is the tuition you pay for all of the years at the college.
I live in Cook County, Illinois and Oakton Community College is my local community college. I visit their website, and great, they have the following majors are certificates:
List of Oakton Community College Automotive Related Degrees and Certificates:
- Automotive Technology A.A.S
- Automotive Technology Certificate
- Automotive Technology Powertrain Certificate
- Automotive Electrical Systems Certificate
- Automotive Engines Certificate
- Automotive Engine Performance and Emissions Certificate
- Automotive Heating and Air Conditioning Certificate
- Automotive Transmission and Powertrain Certificate
- Automotive Under Car Certificate
Since my career goals are to eventually open up my own Automotive Repair Shop, the Automotive Technology A.A.S. is the one that appeals to me. I will also need to know the business side of things for small businesses (accounting, human resources, people management, marketing, etc.). There is no major at Oakton Community College called “entrepreneur”. Maybe other courses will meet my educational needs and maybe they will not.
Oakton Community College is an option. If I had to, I could make it work. But is it really the best choice for my future career goals? What else is out there?
Since Michigan is the Automotive Capitol of the United States, I decided to do a quick search at what is available at the community colleges in Michigan.
I find Macomb Community College. I do a search for their list of majors:
- Automotive Systems Technology – Mechatronics, AAS (I could transfer to a 4-year college, major in mechatronics engineering, and design the next generation of automobiles)
- Automotive Technology, AAS (that would definitely give me the foundation to open my own automotive repair shop)
- Entrepreneurship (it is a certificate program, but at least I will get the business knowledge that I need regardless of if I major in Automotive Technology or Automotive Systems Technology.
So now I look at the cost of the school:
- Resident, $106 ($3816 per year)
- In State, $198 ($7124 per year)
- Out of State, $252 ($9072 per year)
Is the current system fair?
I my opinion, when you are talking about a major that exists in both colleges, it makes sense that a person should be encouraged to attend their local community college. The student could live at home, so the end college expenses will not be so high.
But what about in our example? Clearly, for a person who is thinking about possibly doing a career in research and development in the automotive industry, Maccomb Community College definitely has its academic advantages over Oakton Community College. Both schools are excellent schools, in terms of general education requirements (Mathematics, English, Science, History, etc.). But in terms of specific courses for a specific major for specific career goals, in our example of a person wanting to major in research and development in the automotive industry, Maccomb Community College clearly has its advantages.
But now a student is faced with tuition costs that are double what the student would pay in their local community college, just because what they want to major in is not available at their local community college.
What I think that tuition plans should be …
It is unrealistic to expect that every community college in the nation is going to have every major. It is not financially realistic.
The federal government should create a “National Community College Tuition Payment Program”. Essentially what this would entail is that if you want to go to community college, you pay a set tuition, no matter which community college you attend in the nation. The average cost of community college is $5,000 per year. Some are charging a little bit more and some are charging a little bit less. For two years of education, that is around $10,000.
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Biden was proposing that everybody gets $10,000 in loan forgiveness. So in terms of money, is my proposal out of line with what the Biden administration was saying?
The plan is this. If a person goes to community college, the government will allow the person to choose any community college to attend and the government will pay the $10k. That is assuming that you pass the class. If you do not pass the class, the government will bill you for the cost of that class. As for room and board, that is your own responsibility. If you go local and you live with your family, you pay “nothing”. If you decide to go someplace else, then the cost of your room and board is on you (student loans, what happens in the current system).
Would Republicans agree with this plan?
I am going to say that they would because it is not a plan that says “this group of people get this, but this other group of people gets that, and who gets what is based on politics”.
Everybody benefits. If you want a trade school degree, you just do the 2 years and you come out at the end with no college bills (especially if your major is offered at your local community college). If you want to get a 4-year degree or become a doctor or a lawyer, you can still take your foundation courses at your local community and then just take your higher-level career specialization courses at a 4-year school.
This plan is not changing the rules after the fact. It is simply stating that if a person chooses to go to a community college, no matter which community college they choose to attend in the nation, they will get 2 years of tuition paid for by the government. If you choose to go local, and you live at home, after two years of education, you have zero college bills. If you choose to attend a community college in another area that is not a daily commute from your parent’s house, the costs of room and board are on you (student loans, the same as the current system).
What about people who want a 4-year degree? What about public vs. private schools?
Should the government say every public school should charge the name tuition costs? The average cost for public colleges is $10k per year. If the plan state I stated above is made general, it would mean that if you choose to go to a 4-year college, you would get 1 year of tuition paid for, no matter which public college you attend.
As for the other 3 years ($30k of college tuition)? Should that be a personal choice and you are just expected to pay back that $30k in student loans? Same with room and board, if you choose to not live with your parents during your college years, should you be expected to pay for your room and board through student loans?
What is the point of making college tuition so high with no real view of how much it is going to cost? At a typical 4 year public college, after 4 years, tuition costs $40k plus room and board. But nobody is expected to pay that. People get financial aid, some more and some less, dependent on your income from 1 1/2 years previously. Under those conditions, nobody can be expected to have a full understanding of what their “college costs” are going to be.
Maybe the first step in “fixing” the whole college student loan problem is to make the true cost of college more transparent. If you want to buy a house, before you take one step into the house, you know the house is going to cost X dollars with Y down payment, and a loan of Z amount with B payments per month for 30 years.
We should do the same with college costs. You sign a 4-year contract of X dollars and after you graduate you pay Z amount per month for 10 years. In other words, financial aid should be “You will pay X amount for 10 years after graduation, no exceptions”. If your grade point average for a term is above 3.0, you get a quarter-point interest reduction, so your monthly payments will be reduced by P dollars per month. Simple enough terms that even an 8th grader can understand them.