Getting Started

What is a community college and why are more students turning to them? Who are some of the most famous community college graduates? Here you’ll find the answers to these questions and more.
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It’s seen by some as the “easy way out.” Minimal entrance requirements, open enrollment, and a wide variety of basic and remedial courses give some people the impression that the community college experience is one that is not academically rigorous. Although there might have been some element of truth to this stigma a few decades ago, community colleges of today are on the leading edge of education, particularly for new and emerging career areas that are experiencing explosive growth. Yet, many myths about community colleges still exist.
 

Myth #1: Students Rejected from Four Year Colleges

Perhaps the most pervasive stereotype about students that attend community college is that they are there out of academic necessity, not choice. Some people assume that the more stringent entrance criteria held by four-year institutions is just too much for ‘those students’ to meet, forcing them to study instead at a local junior college. While academic necessity is a reason for some students to attend a two-year institution, the overarching reason why students choose to attend a community college is cost effectiveness.

The per-year cost of a university education is roughly three times that of the per-year cost of attending a two-year school. With many 21st century careers needing only an associate’s degree and increasingly smooth transfer procedures from community colleges to universities, completing the first two years of one’s education at a two-year institution makes a lot of financial sense. The flexible nature of community college scheduling combined with the availability of scholarships and . . . read more


A recent report by the National Center for the Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research found that employers show little preference between a job candidate with an education from a for-profit institution such as DeVry or the University of Phoenix, and one with an education from a public community college. In a study in which researchers tracked the callbacks to 9,000 fictitious job applications, 11.6 percent of employers responded to applications listing a community college education, while 11.3 percent responded to faux applications of students from for-profit colleges. Companies also requested interviews of community college students more often – 5.3 percent – compared to 4.7 percent for applications listing a for-profit college education.

The fabricated applications were submitted with similar credentials, either an associate’s degree, certificate, or some college education, so applicants would not be called because of an imbalance of qualifications. What the study’s findings suggest is similar to what other studies on for-profit education have discovered: When it comes to applying for a job, community college students are as much, if not more attractive to employers as students from for-profit schools.

It is important to note that this particular research does not delve deeper into the process of hiring a new employee and only examines employers’ initial responses. Differences between a community college-educated applicant and a for-profit college applicant are not accounted for here. However, researchers at Boston University have found that there are negligible labor market benefits for graduates of . . . read more


Community college enrollment has increased across the country in recent years, and there are many reasons for the influx of students. A sluggish economy, lower tuition rates and high quality education are just a few of those reasons. With community colleges finding a new role in educating students in America today, there are numerous compelling reasons to give these two-year schools another look.
 
Lower Rates, Less Debt
 
One of the top reasons students are considering community colleges over four-year schools today is an issue of cost. According to Yahoo Finance, the average annual cost to attend community college during the 2010-2011 school year was $8,734, which included tuition and books, room and board and living expenses. In contrast, the annual cost to attend a four-year school during the same year was $18,133. Even public institutions, which are supposed to offer a more budget-friendly option to four-year students, had an average annual cost of $13,297.
 
Tuition costs for two-year institutions hover at around $2,000-$3,000 per year. That amount is much more affordable than the tuition at four-year schools, which can run as high as $8,000 or more for public institutions and up to $50,000 or more for private schools. Students that qualify for significant scholarship money may find the four-year schools affordable, but those who don’t get any financial help may be out of luck.
 
Debt is another concern for students heading to four-year schools. Yahoo also cites the average amount of debt a student is saddled with after . . . read more

While libraries and book vendors are teeming with information about preparing for a four-year college, there is relatively little available to help students prepare for the community college experience. Thomas J. Snyder, president of Ivy Tech Community College, hopes to fill that niche, with his new guide titled, “The Community College Career Track: A Guide for High-Schoolers, Career-Changers, Parents and Advisors.” Snyder uses his experiences in both the academic and corporate sectors to offer community college-bound students and their parents the help they need to navigate the community college system adeptly. The guide focuses on helping students get on the right career track, using community college as a launching pad.

A Different Path to Opportunity
 
Snyder believes that community college can be an effective path to a rewarding, lucrative career, additional education, or a combination of the two. Snyder told the Northwest Indiana Times that with many four-year students graduating with as much as $80,000 in debt and no job prospects, the middle class is now looking at the possibility that a four-year degree may not be the most cost-effective path right out of high school. As Snyder interviewed numerous community college students in preparation for writing his guidebook, he realized that the majority were landing good jobs right out of school, with little or no debt to worry about.
 
“Whether it is a traditional student or a displaced worker, community colleges offer an opportunity to pursue a degree or certification that leads directly to employment,” Snyder stated . . . read more

Not everyone who makes headlines today came from an Ivy League institution; in fact, some did not attend a four-year university at all. Those who did often got their start in the humble beginnings of their local community college – a school that may be highly underrated for its ability to churn out graduates poised to make a real difference in the world. Take a look at these 10 famous community college graduates to see how two-year schools can provide the foundation for a bright future.

Ross Perot
 
This two-time presidential candidate ran on the independent ticket in 1992 and 1996. A successful businessman in his own right, Business Insider reports that Perot worked for IBM before leaving the company to start his own business, Electronic Data Systems, in 1984. After Perot sold that company to General Motors for $2.4 billion, Perot started a second company, Perot Systems, Inc. That business was acquired by Dell in 2009 for $3.9 billion.
 
Before beginning his long and illustrious business career, Perot began his quest into higher education at Texarkana Community College. After taking classes at his local community college, Perot transferred to the Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1953.
 
Tom Hanks
 
This Oscar-award winning actor, known for his stellar performances in flicks like “Forrest Gump” and “Saving Private Ryan,” reportedly couldn’t land roles in theatre productions during his college years. According to the Huffington Post, Hanks first attended Chabot College in Hayward, California, for two years, before transferring to California . . . read more
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