Transferring to the in-state flagship school after living at home and taking JC courses achieves the same credential for half the cost.
For low and middle-income families, the junior college transfer option is looking better each year. Although students taking this path forgo the "real college experience" for a couple of years and may feel a prestige hit, the drastically reduced financial burden could more than make up for these rather insubstantial benefits.
Junior colleges often have transfer agreements with particular state universities that make it easier for successful JC students to attend a top state school. For instance, Santa Rosa Junior College, our local JC, has a transfer agreement with U.C. Berkeley, arguably the best public school in the nation.
Our daughter graduated high school in 2011, took a gap year, and then matriculated at pricey Wesleyan University in Connecticut, graduating in 2016 with a double major in math and computer science. Wesleyan seemed like a good idea at the time, considering she had originally planned to major in English ... but given the STEM degree she ultimately earned at Wesleyan, she would actually have been better off transferring from SRJC and graduating with a math/compsci degree from UCB, one of the most highly regarded STEM schools in the world.
She did fine. Our daughter was offered a good scholarship to attend Wesleyan, and though her liberal arts math/compsci degree offered her fewer opportunities than the same degree from UCB would have afforded, she landed a great job soon after graduation as a software engineer at Amadeus North America in Boston.
One significant disadvantage of the JC transfer option is the lower-quality student body JC's typically attract. Although JC instruction is often excellent, top students who attend JC's won't find the same high level of intellectual interaction with peers as those who attend good four-year schools.
But if money is a family's biggest consideration, the JC transfer option could make very good sense, even if the student involved is capable enough to gain admission to big-name schools.
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