When McKenzie King attends Kansas University this fall, she'll have a little extra in her pocketbook because she started her studies at a junior college.
"Juco is a lot cheaper. I had a lot of scholarship opportunities - I had the first two years basically paid for," King said. "I definitely think that's a big option."
It's an option more students are taking advantage of.
KU has seen a 34 percent increase in the number of transfer students since fall 2001, the year before the university began a five-year plan to double tuition rates.
And with tuition rates continuing to rise at KU, officials are expecting the trend to continue into the future.
"More students are starting at community colleges, whether it's for cost or for other reasons," said Lisa Pinamonti Kress, director of admissions and scholarships. "So we need to recruit more at the community colleges."
King attended Johnson County Community College for two years before starting at KU, where she plans to earn a business degree.
Because she received a nearly full-ride scholarship to JCCC, the decision saved her nearly $6,500 in tuition alone - not to mention the money she saved by living at her parents' house in Olathe.
King may be one among many students coming to KU after starting at a less expensive community college.
There were 793 community college transfers at KU last fall, up from 593 in fall 2001. Before that, the number had fluctuated for several years, topping off at 735.
The largest number of transfers continue to come from JCCC. Last year, more than half - 53 percent - came from the Overland Park school.
Per-credit-hour tuition this fall at KU will be $160.80, compared with $64 for JCCC students who are from Johnson County, and $79 for other in-state students. JCCC will actually decrease its tuition rates by $1 in the spring semester for all students.
"Obviously, with tuition being as reasonable as it is, it helps people make decisions to come to JCCC," said Chuck Carlsen, the college's president. "I think it's the reputation of the college, plus low tuition. They can come here for a year or two, get a good education and adjust to the college demands."
That adjustment was part of what convinced Tim Squires, a 2004 Lawrence High School graduate, to enroll at JCCC last year. He planned on transferring to KU this fall, but the latest tuition increase made him think twice. He said he's pretty sure he'll return to JCCC this fall.
He's living at home in Lawrence, commuting to JCCC and saving money to transfer to KU later. He wants a degree in clinical laboratory science.
"To me, it made great sense," he said. "I know I'm definitely going to KU. I think if you wanted to do the dorm and fraternity and sorority life, you might miss out on that (at a community college). But I've never been into that."
He said he's been impressed with the individual attention in his smaller classes at the community college.
"At KU, you're basically like a needle in a haystack," he said.
Reggie Robinson, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Board of Regents, said he expects community colleges to continue seeing rising enrollments, in part because of the university tuition increases. Two-year college enrollment has risen 13.5 percent in the past five years, compared with 9.2 percent growth at the state's public universities.
"As university tuition continues to rise, I suspect more kids might see that option as one that's really viable for them, using the community college as a bridge to higher education," Robinson said.
Kress, the KU admissions director, said university administrators aren't concerned about losing enrollment among freshman and sophomore students.
Rather, she said, her office is stepping up its presence at community colleges, visiting more often and making the transfer process as painless as possible.
"The plans in place are working so far," she said. "We always try to expand the amount of information we send to students and transfer students specifically."