Students who do well in high school and come from a background of college-educated parents with middle to upper income or access to loans typically have no trouble getting in to, and paying for, four-year colleges.
But where does that leave students who performed more poorly in high school, come from more disadvantaged backgrounds (family incomes less than $50,000), and were less likely to have parents with a bachelor's degree and encourage college? Much better off if they opt for community college, says a recent study by Dr. Dave Marcotte from the University of Maryland Baltimore County. And in women the advantage is even greater.
The study showed that women with a two-year community college degree earn 45.8% more annually than high school educated women. Men who enroll at a community college and attain a two-year degree earn, on average, 12.2% more annually than male peers who stop at high school graduation
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2005), nearly 40% of all students enrolled in postsecondary education are at two-year institutions. Community colleges typically have easier enrollment policies, lower tuition costs, and varied course selection.
The study also revealed that women earn an additional 9.6% annually by completing just one year of full-time study at a community college, even without earning a degree. Men earn 5.1% more annually for each year of full-time equivalent coursework completed, even though no degree was obtained.
Clearly, enrolling in classes to improve skills, even without obtaining a degree, has considerable economic benefit. There is consistent evidence that average wages and salaries for young men and women who earn associate degrees from community colleges are substantially higher than for those without postsecondary education.