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May 15, 2017 09:19 AM EDT

Getting out of college with a manageable amount of debt is a far bigger challenge than getting into college itself. As more college graduates rant about high student loans, public attention is shifting in favor of community colleges.

According to The Chronicle, a new survey published Thursday states how adults perceive community colleges when it comes to the workforce. Apparently, it sought to answer the question regarding the value and ability of community colleges to prepare students for success. New America, a higher education think tank, conducted the study. Overall, Americans see public two-year colleges as a potential to lower down the cost of education.

For one thing, students could avoid too much debt if they spend the first two years picking up credits at a community college. These institutions offer a steep discount, which is beneficial for low-income families. Eventually, they will transfer to a four-year, in-state University to continue their studies.

Per CNBC, the $3,500 average annual tuition fee at a local college is about one-third the average payments at a four-year public school. Also, it is roughly one-tenth the cost of education at a four-year private university. Nevertheless, Davis Jenkins, a senior associate at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University, said that most local colleges and four-year universities are doing average jobs in helping students complete the transfer process.

Thus, Jenkins noted that access is "not the same as success." He only suggests that in order to make this theory work, students must do some serious legwork. In fact, he has provided three simple steps toward achieving this goal.

First, Jenkins stressed that students must "declare themselves as soon as possible". Obviously, he wants them to figure out their majors immediately. Second is that aspiring students should contact the departments they want to transfer into to ask what required courses are needed to enter as a junior. Remember that there are credits that are transferable and there are credits that are applicable to the degree students want to pursue.

Now, a lot of community-college transfers figure out that they have to work on more courses before they could officially enter on their junior-year-level subjects. Jenkins warned that excess credits are only waste of time and money. Lastly, he wants students to "map out the game plan." The worst thing that could happen is to miss one pre-requisite class as that particular student needs to wait for another semester.

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