I have definitely urged people to go the community college route. I was an RA as well, which helped reduce the student loan debt for 1 year of free housing/food.
I saw a lot of kids crash and burn because they had no idea why they went to college. I feel like our generation was the one of college as high school years 5-8. Everyone went to school, even if you didn’t know what you wanted to do. During my orientation we had a lot of people explain how they changed thier major multiple times, and it was funny! They eventually found the end of their journey after their first year or so of college. (no mention of the additional costs of summer classes or an extra semester or 2 tacked on)
I think this is part of why my generation is so burnt out right now, because you have so many young people who went to college to end up in careers that could be filled by low-skilled H.S. graduate level workers. You have the baristas and waiters and gig economy workers who work along side people with no college, saddled with 30-50k in college loan debt.
I think this is fairly unique to my generation. In previous generations college was cheaper, for sure, but it was much more of an option for those motivated for a career that a college degree could bring. Right now I think people just go to college because it is the thing you are supposed to do.
If you are a young person who has no clue what they want to do post high school, I would heavily recommend going to a community college to get some transferrable credits out of the way, take some courses on subjects you might be interested in, and find a passion. Don’t spend money finding out what you want to do at an expensive 4 year college or university.
This is, of course, difficult for a lot of middle class kids. College is where all of the cool kids went, where the dorms are, the parties, the drinking, the large mass of kids in your same age group. Where you can hook up and drink and make tons of friends. Community and technical colleges don’t have the same feel, and I can get the desire to have that college experience at age 18.
I think it is that double whammy of increased costs/debt and lack of employment power a 4 year degree carries now.