5 Reasons to Consider Community College | Community colleges


Whether you’re a high school student unsure of which colleges to apply to or an adult considering going back to school, there are plenty of reasons to put a community college on your list.

Nearly 30% of U.S. undergraduates are enrolled in public two-year colleges, which offer perks like open enrollment policies and flexible hours.

Attending a community college can be an affordable way to delve into higher education before moving on to a four-year program. But these colleges also offer a range of programs that can allow students to forgo the college experience altogether.

When RJ Hunt was a senior in high school, community college wasn’t even on his radar. He had planned to attend Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan after graduation, that is, until the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Afraid of spending tens of thousands of dollars to take online classes, he decided instead to attend Washtenaw Community College near his hometown of Ypsilanti, Michigan. Today, he is finishing his second year. Reflecting on his choice in a column for his school newspaper, Hunt wrote that attending community college was the best decision he ever made.

If you’re considering community college, here are five benefits to keep in mind.

Cost reduction

One of the most frequently cited advantages of community college is its relatively low cost of attendance.

“Cost is definitely one of the main reasons someone should consider a community college,” says Martha Parham, senior vice president of public relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.

According to data from the College Board, community colleges cost, on average, about one-third of the state’s tuition at public four-year universities. For example, Washington residents attending North Seattle College will pay just over $4,100 per year in tuition and fees (without financial aid). Those attending the University of Washington-Seattle, on the other hand, will pay just over $12,000 per year.

“In addition to that, most community colleges have resources to help students remove any financial barriers they may have to attending college,” Parham says, noting that community colleges often offer financial aid and scholarships. generous scholarships to their students.

A path to a four-year college

Many four-year universities have transfer agreements with local community colleges. These agreements allow students who meet specific requirements to easily transfer to a four-year program at a nearby university.

Transfer students can then earn a bachelor’s degree while only having to pay two years of higher tuition.

“When you get an associate’s degree at a community college, you start as a junior when you transfer to a four-year college,” says Iris Palmer, associate director of community colleges for New America’s education policy program. “So you take your general education and you don’t have to redo it or add courses to the four years (college).

Hunt heard about his university’s transfer agreement program shortly after enrolling at Washtenaw. He plans to enroll in Eastern Michigan University after earning his associate degree.

George L. Wimberly, director of professional development and chief diversity officer at the American Educational Research Association, says that in addition to lowering the cost of a bachelor’s degree, completing two years at a community college can ease the transition from high school to the university. level course.

Palmer says it’s especially important for students to take note of the specific requirements of their college’s transfer agreement, as these can vary widely from place to place.

Proximity to home

Community colleges typically enroll students in and around the region they are in, facilitating a sense of comfort and ease of accessibility.

“I grew up in Ypsilanti all my life – Washtenaw is about 10 minutes from my house,” says Hunt. “I know the area well, which certainly makes me more comfortable.

Parham says the open enrollment policy at community colleges allows many students who may not be interested or able to attend a distant university to access higher education. In this way, she says, community colleges place a strong emphasis on service to local people.

“If you are able to live at home, work and go to school in your local community, that of course increases access,” she says.

Flexibility

Community colleges allow flexible schedules, giving students the opportunity to attend college while working or raising a family. This flexibility comes in many forms, from evening classes to asynchronous classes.

“Many community colleges recognize that their students are in part-time or full-time jobs,” says Wimberly.

Parham says this flexibility makes community colleges an especially attractive option for older students who are working professionals or parents. According to the AACC, the average community college student is 27 years old, and about 44% of community college students are over the age of 22.

Flexible schedules don’t just benefit older students. Palmer says many community colleges have dual-enrollment programs that allow high school students to take college-level courses in the evenings or on weekends.

Workforce training

Community colleges tend to offer a wide range of vocational and technical training programs in areas like nursing or firefighting. Palmer and Parham agree that the highly applied nature of these programs prepares students to enter the workforce.

“There are some really good training programs at community colleges, and they tend to have really good relationships with employers in their community,” says Palmer.

From culinary arts to auto mechanics, community colleges offer a wide selection of professionalized courses that four-year universities often don’t offer. While students could also study these subjects at trade school, Wimberly says community colleges tend to offer these programs at a much lower cost.

Palmer adds that many community colleges also offer bachelor’s degree programs in highly applied fields like business, nursing and computer science. These programs allow students to earn a bachelor’s degree without ever having to attend a four-year college. New America researchers estimate that more than 100 public, mostly two-year institutions — or about 10 percent of all community colleges in the United States — offer bachelor’s degree programs in 24 states, and that number is expected to “rise significantly in the coming years .”

“It’s actually a lot of programs similar to what you would get at a traditional four-year institution, but with less liberal arts,” Palmer says. “They’re much more applied and really focused on particular professions.”

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