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Report: Community College May Not Lower Price of Degree

Knocking out the first two years of a four-year degree at a community college is a popular way for students to try to keep the price of higher education manageable.

Knocking out the first two years of a four-year degree at a community college is a popular way for students to try to keep the price of higher education manageable. But a new report has found that students who opt for that route tend to borrow as often and as much as their counterparts who start off at a four-year university.

The report, "A Brief Look at Transfer Students and Financial Aid," was put together by TG, a nonprofit corporation established by the Legislature in 1979 to provide Texas students and families with information and services to help with the financing of higher education. (For example, they recently rolled out this nifty new debt-to-income calculator.)

Using national data, Carla Fletcher, a senior research analyst at TG and the report's author, found that for students who borrowed money to finance their education, the median amount of student loan debt accumulated was approximately $20,000, whether they had transferred in or started at the university. At private institutions, transfer students finished with roughly $27,000 in debt, compared with $25,000 for students who were there on Day One.

"People have this idea that they are somehow going to save money because they go to community college," Fletcher said. "But it looks like people end up borrowing about the same."

She noted that many students who begin work on their bachelor's degree in community college see their savings erased at the university level, where -- particularly at private institutions -- they tend to receive less grant aid than students who followed a more traditional route and subsequently have to borrow more money.

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