Underrated in America: Community colleges

Zac Bissonnette

Community colleges have always been an underrated source of education, with most top students frowning upon them. But the times they are a-changin'. With the credit markets experiencing unprecedented problems -- and parents' portfolios down big -- many students are finding themselves in their junior and senior years of college without funding.

That's bad. it's especially bad because once you finish your sophomore year, it becomes difficult to downsize: community colleges generally don't offer bachelor's degree programs and the timing is also bad for transferring to a less expensive or less prestigious four-year college: you've spent tens of thousands on your education but your diploma will come from whatever school you attend last.

Don't miss the rest of our series on Underrated In America!

Bottom line: unless you're rolling in cash or receive a huge amount of scholarship money, beginning your college career at a community college is a prudent step to take into consideration. The costs are a tiny fraction of a four-year school, you'll be able to save money by working and living at home, and it's much better to make do now rather than run out of money 3 years into an education at a four-year college.

And remember, the main difference between the diploma of someone who went to Harvard for four years and someone who did the first two years at a community college before transferring is: nothing.

Some notable community college graduates: George Lucas, Ross Perot, Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, astronaut Eileen Collins, Peter Jennings, Tom Hanks and Morgan Freeman.