The Benefits of Attending Community College, Especially for the First 2 Years

At the end of December of last year, Alex Roa, an undergraduate researcher at UCLA, pulled together a well-reasoned set of arguments as to why one should never be shamed by attending a community college. In fact, from a standpoint of return on time and money and personal growth, community college might just be the best payback.  For Alex it was: “I left community college with friendships…, valuable life skills, direction…$0 of debt, scholarships, financial aid…enough to cover 100% of all my expenses at UCLA.”

His arguments for attending California CCs are financial, academic, and likely outcome.

Foremost, by going to community college your first year you save money. A full-time community college student in California pays around $1-2k annually. At Cal Poly SLO, a full year, with room and board, is now just under $30K. At UC Santa Barbara the year now costs around $35K, and at USC $75K.

Additionally, there is ample financial aid for CC students. Everyone needs to fill out a FAFSA form. Once done, you might find yourself eligible for the College Promise Grant. Qualified students can waive the $46 per unit fee. Last year over a million students did. Details can be found at You might even prove eligible for a Federal Pell Grant.

There are also additional government funded scholarship programs such as TRiO ( and Sparkpoint, which can be used to offset school supplies, groceries, etc.

Alex Roa benefited from the BOG waiver, a $5K Pell Grant, a $1K scholarship from his CC, and he got his credit card through Sparkpoint. Instead of acquiring a load of debt, he actually saved money his first two years in CC.

Does one get short changed academically at a CC?  Most courses taken during the freshman and sophomore year at the UCs, the Cal States and the CCs are general education courses. , also known as IGETC ( At his CC, Alex took, “a statistics course with a professor who was also teaching statistics at SF State University (SFSU). I asked him once if he altered the curriculum in any way from his course at SFSU…he replied: ‘absolutely not.’”

CCs also allow for more flexibility. Sure, Brown University offers the opportunity to design your major, but just how free are you to try and sample courses when the price tag per course is in the thousands? At a CC, ‘if you do not like a course…want to do a trade program, …want to work full time for a semester…that is fine.” CCs gives you the option, “to find your unique individual path.”

Alec Roa, during his 2nd year at CC, had to strengthen his arguments to present a major research project at Stanford. He sent his Geology professor, who holds a BS from TCU, MS from Oregon State, and PhD from UCSC, and email and within an hour received back resources to best complete his presentation. Alex notes: ‘…this type of one on one attention will be hard to come by in lower division courses at most 4-year universities.’

The key issue, of course, is the ability to transfer into a 4-year school after you gain your 60 units. Should your aim be the Cal States, once you finish the IGETC and major requirements, visit for a list of agreements between CCs and the 23 Cal State campuses. However, if transferring does not appeal to you, the CC system offers certificates, trade programs and even 4-year equivalent degrees. Possibly it’s best to head into fire, EMT, automotive, cosmetology…the world awaits your purpose.

If you’re aiming at the UCs, 6 of the 9 UC campuses offer articulation agreements (called TAG) that when you finish your IGETC, required courses for a selected major, and attain a specified GPA (e.g. 3.2) you’re admitted.  Should your appetite be for private schools, say USC, as a first-year applicant your admissions rate is 16.5%. As a transfer it is 27%. , with half coming from CCs in California. The chances are also significantly higher to get into UC Berkeley and UCLA as a transfer.

If this item stimulated your interest, you can see Alec Roa’s complete writeup at Alec did his homework. It’s worth a read.