Dear Harry:

With the costs of a college education going up beyond every measure of inflation, we have been seeking ways to save money on the education of our son who will graduate from high school in 2012. There was an article my husband read recently by a high-school guidance counselor that advocated a unique approach. We were hoping you could give us your take on it. She urged people to consider very carefully having their children spend a year or two at a community college, then transferring to a university with a well-known name. The two years of tuition paid to a community college is ordinarily less that half a year's tuition at one of local universities. Is the money saving worth the loss of prestige? Are the educational levels too low to make an easy transfer?

What Harry says: Community colleges, especially our local ones, have come a long way since the early days of their existence. I do not believe their standards or their professional staffs are up to the level of Ivy League or similar elite schools, but they are more than acceptable. There are many great universities that will accept credits from many community colleges. Penn and Temple are among them, and you can't do much better than that. Your son will get a degree that is no different from the degrees conferred upon four-year students. What will be missing? The social life and extracurricular activity will be different for those early years. Not better or worse, but different. Just make sure that the community college he selects will be recognized by the university that he likes.

Write Harry Gross c/o the Daily News, 400 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19130. Harry urges all his readers to give blood - contact the American Red Cross at 800-Red Cross.