I’ve had an almost comically varied career path, founding companies in education, robotics and beverages. The most surprising part of my résumé is the most mundane: I went to community college.

For me, the logic was simple. I saved thousands of dollars and the credits counted exactly the same as those from Boston University, from which I ultimately earned bachelor’s degrees in computer science and communications. As the son of a school teacher, the savings meant the world to me. And they mean the world to plenty of other students around the U.S.

Community-college tuition costs roughly one-tenth what an average private, four-year university costs, even less when you factor in on-campus housing. While financial aid can reduce private tuition bills, it can also make community college nearly free.

According to the American Association of Community Colleges, 41{13aab5633489a05526ae1065595c074aeca3e93df6390063fabaebff206207ec} of all undergraduates in the U.S. are enrolled in community colleges, including 39{13aab5633489a05526ae1065595c074aeca3e93df6390063fabaebff206207ec} of first-time freshmen. Those numbers should be even higher. Most college students should begin their careers at community colleges so they can graduate debt-free.

What’s preventing them? Students are embarrassed by community college or simply don’t know enough about it. A recent graduate told me that he didn’t even know that community college, or “junior college” in his words, was real college until he was a junior at his state school. He thought it was a remedial school for delinquents.