Savers, Have You Considered Junior College?

07.17.08 | Money | 1 Comment | by Fred Siegmund

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In the process of saving for college, families sometimes forget saving on college. There are few bargains left, but allow me to suggest the junior college. It could be the last of America's educational bargains.

In the year ending June 2006, there were 713,000 associates degrees granted in the United States. There were less than 500,000 a year until after 1990, when growth in the AA degree began to pick up. Associates degrees are now growing faster than Baccalaureate degrees, although the BA degree has almost 1.5 million degrees.

Less known are the many certificate programs at Junior colleges that run one year or less. There were 229,000 certificates awarded for the year ending June 2006. There another 183,600 awards granted in specialty programs that run between 1 up to 4 years.

Combined, there are well over a million people leaving junior colleges with degrees and certificates.

In addition to the many technical and allied health programs, junior colleges have a whole slate of English, math and social science courses that fulfill two full years of requirements at four-year colleges. A state's four-year college accepts their state's junior college credits.

Another advantage comes because junior colleges are usually sprinkled around a state at many locations and so they are convenient to attend without changes in address or work schedules.

There is also reason to believe the quality of instruction continues to rise because there is a growing surplus of qualified faculty with masters and doctorate degrees. Many of these people have work experience and want to get into teaching.

More and more junior colleges are hiring from the same pool of faculty as the four year colleges, and this is especially true in large metropolitan areas where the surplus is likely to be even bigger.

In Virginia in 2007, the average tuition and required fees for a full time student at the 4 year colleges was $7,083. At the many junior colleges, it was $2,524 — a savings of $4,559 a year with a full time course load.

Most states have similar or bigger disparities. If we figure a savings of $4,559 from the beginning of the first two years at 4 percent interest until the end of a four year degree, the savings is $10,853.36. Even at two percent interest is the savings is $9,771.91.

For savers who want a four year degree, think junior college.

Fred Siegmund covers America's jobs as part of work doing labor market analysis and projections for a client base of recruiters, trainers and counselors. Visit him at

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