By Rajkamal Rao
Go back to Checklist for Core 4 Undergrads
This page is dedicated to undergraduates - that is, those that want to pursue a traditional 4-year US education to get a BA/BS degree.
The best kept secret yet is that most good Community Colleges have articulation agreements with top schools. An articulation agreement is a legally binding agreement between a 2-year Community College and a 4-year college detailing a simplified but guaranteed transfer from one to the other.
The idea of articulation is that you complete a pre-determined set of courses (or lesson plan) at a lower-cost college and transfer to a destination institution without questions asked (as long as you meet all conditions of articulation).
Suppose you are interested to get a degree in Biomedical Sciences at the prestigious Texas A&M University. What are your chances of getting into Texas A&M as an international student as a traditional undergrad? Even if you rate your chances as high, what would be the cost? Answer: Flat rate tuition costs for international students are $10,913 per semester.
At Austin County Community College (ACCC), however, a five-course semester will cost $4,860 (a 3-credit course costs $972). Luckily for us, ACCC and Texas A&M have signed a binding agreement. Accordingly, if a student completes a pre-determined list of courses at ACCC totaling 67 credit hours, obtains at least a 3.6 GPA and doesn't score lower than a B in science and math, this student is automatically guaranteed admission to Texas A&M!
Let us look at the ROI analysis. For this exercise, we are only considering tuition and fees but omitting all other expenses (living, health insurance, transportation, etc).
Traditional Option: Complete all 120 Credit Hours at Texas A&M
Total Cost: $87,306 ($757.55 per credit hour x 120 credits)
Core Idea 4: Complete 67 hours at Austin CCC and 53 hours at Texas A&M
Cost at ACCC: $21,708 ($324 per credit hour x 67 credits)
Cost at Texas A&M: $40,150.15 ($757.55 per credit hour x 53 credits)
Your final 4-year degree will still be stamped by Texas A&M but the cost is nearly 29% lower. Plus it was probably easier and more structured to get in to the college to begin with. You earn an Associates Degree along the way which you can add to your resume. And you have the chance to work, in the United States, as an intern for a full year - an experience limited to students who follow the Core 4 approach.
The ROI is clearly better in the second option. We said earlier that we would prove to you that the Core 4 approach is off-the-beaten-track, requires hard work but is beneficial to you overall. Many famous Americans have exploited this route, so you won't be alone in this adventure!
There is just one issue with this approach, though. Not every 4 year college - indeed, the top private schools in the country - has articulation agreements with community colleges. And by definition, articulation agreements are restricted to partners within a state - that is, the community college and the 4 year college both are generally present within the same state making transferring across state lines difficult.
Recognizing this gap, Quad Learning, a private company has slowly begun developing a network of community colleges and 4 year colleges across the country, called American Honors. The site's mission statement says: "In collaboration with local community colleges and nationally renowned experts in higher education, we create new pathways for individuals to earn a high-quality bachelor’s degree."
The New York Times reports that at the community colleges participating so far, students in the honors program pay about $2,000 per year more in tuition than their classmates. Quad Learning has long-term revenue-sharing agreements with each college. “We like to think about the price as being halfway between a community college and a four-year, open-access university,” said Chris Romer, president of the company. “If we can do the first two years of college for $12,000, that’s a game changer for a lot of families.” Partner schools include Ohio State, Vanderbilt, Stanford, the University of Arizona and Georgetown.
No matter which approach you choose - the in-state Core 4 articulation method or the American Honors route - the win-win benefits are clear. You can more easily get into a top quality degree program but with a significant discount.
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