Sophia Meador, Opinions Editor

Finding a job after graduation doesn’t scare me. But paying back my debt after four years at the University of Iowa does.

Higher education is a huge investment. According to the state Board of Regents, a UI in-state student with debt will graduate with an average of $26,196.That’s equivalent to about 5,500 venti iced coffees at Starbucks.

Because higher education is expensive, many students seek more affordable paths. One of the best ways to save on higher education begins at community college.

Full disclosure: I did not attend community college before attending the UI. However, I took local community college courses for high school credit. From my experience with community college and university courses, I saw little difference in quality of general education courses.

Additionally, most community colleges have smaller class sizes, which is convenient for students to gain closer connections with faculty and students. This is especially helpful for all those large STEM lectures I hear students complain about.

But the biggest perk of community college is saving money. Students in Iowa who attend community college save an estimated $8,432 on average, according to LendingTree. That totals to almost 1,800 venti iced coffees.

I know first-hand how exciting it is to attend a Big Ten university after high school. Long-term financial planning is the least of your concerns at 18 years old. It can be easy to forget the primary focus of college is education, not socialization.

While there are many positive attributes a formative university experience can bring, the fact is, you can get the same education for a more affordable price.

Think about that the next time you’re waiting in line at Starbucks.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.