Choosing a School

Whether you are a high school student, an adult student, or someone looking for retraining, we have all the resources you need to make an educated choice about the right community college for you. We’ll compare community colleges to other institutions of higher education, explore college rankings and the accreditation system, and provide useful tips to ensure your community college credits transfer easily.
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Community colleges are not a new addition to the world of higher education, but they have certainly received more attention in recent years. As the current administration strives to increase college graduation rates across the country, community colleges are primed to play an important role in meeting that goal. For adults looking for an effective way to make a career change, or high school seniors weighing all of their options in the next phase of their academic career, understanding the full picture of community college can be an important component in the planning process. What are community colleges and what is their primary purpose? Read on to learn the basics of these essential institutions of higher education.

What is a Community College?
 
According to the Department of Homeland Security, community college is a “two-year school that provides affordable postsecondary education as a pathway to a four-year degree.” These schools also offer industry specific training that helps graduates land jobs in the community directly after graduation. As the economy in the U.S. has changed in recent years, the quest for affordable, practical education has been on the rise. Community colleges tend to fit that bill to a “T” from trade-specific training to higher education that can stand alone or take the student directly into a four-year program.
 
Degrees offered by community colleges are typically associate degrees, which take two full years of coursework to complete. However, many certification and licensing programs may also be available through . . . read more

The Aspen Institute recently released its top 10 finalists for the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The award, which enjoyed its inaugural year last year, has quickly become the gold standard for community colleges across the country. The 10 schools on this list have demonstrated outstanding achievement in the areas of completion rates, learning outcomes, workforce preparedness and success of at-risk students. These 10 colleges were selected from more than 1,000 institutions that have received consistently high marks in these four areas throughout the past academic year.

The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence
 
The Aspen Institute initiated its award program last year, in response to calls by the White House to raise the bar on higher education. Community colleges serve as a practical place for many students, from those graduating from high school unable to afford a four-year university to professionals looking for additional career training. With so much focus placed on the role of community colleges over the past four years, the Aspen Institute established a plan to recognize and reward those schools that set the example and the standard for the rest of the community colleges nationwide.
 
The Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence recognizes one winner each year, as well as four finalists. Those chosen by the Aspen Institute will split a prize package of $1 million. Last year’s winner, and the first recipient of the Aspen Prize, was Valencia Community College in Orlando, Florida. This year, two more . . . read more

Community colleges in California are struggling, and at this point, it’s anybody’s guess how the problems with higher education in the state will eventually shake out. While much of the focus on California community colleges of late has centered on San Francisco City College's accreditation threats, this isn’t the only school getting low marks by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. Many of the two-year schools around the state appear to be in trouble, although some are currently in hotter water than others. Can these schools, which are so vital to the student population and the employment outlook of the state, pull themselves out of the holes they are slowly sinking into?

Accreditation Sanctions Running Rampant
 
According to a report at the Sacramento Bee, numerous California community colleges across the state are in trouble with the accreditation commission. Three of these schools, including San Francisco City College, are facing the most severe “show cause” sanctions. In addition, 10 campuses have been placed on “probation” status and another 14 have received “warning” status. All of the schools have been given specific guidelines they must follow if they want to improve their status by the next accreditation evaluation; however, the three schools in the most dire circumstances also have the most work to do.
 
“The problems colleges have run into with accreditation are abnormally acute at this point in time in California,” David Baime, senior vice president with the American Association of Community Colleges, told the Sacramento Bee . . . read more

For-profit colleges have been a growing sector in higher education in recent decades, but they have also fueled plenty of debate among educators and lawmakers.  in 2010, for-profits launched an attack on community colleges, which are their main competitors, and community colleges vehemently fought back against the claims.  While these for-profit schools tout their many benefits through expensive marketing campaigns, watchdogs of higher education claims these schools fail to deliver on their promises at a much higher rate than community colleges, public universities and even some private institutions.  Now, a new report from Senator Tom Harkin indicates that these for-profit institutions are missing the mark in terms of educating students and spending student and taxpayer dollars wisely - marking a wide divide between community colleges and these for-profit schools.

About the Harkin Report
 
The report, dubbed the Harkin Report after its primary author, is a voluminous write-up of nearly 250 pages that details the operations of 30 for-profit institutions around the country, according to Inside Higher Ed. The investigation, which took two years to complete, was headed by Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa. The report was issued by the Democratic Majority and the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
 
Senator Harkin presented his findings at the end of July. The Harkin report has since been scrutinized by media, educators and lawmakers. While some agree wholeheartedly with the sometimes scathing report, others believe it is just another political ploy to run these institutions out . . . read more

There is no doubt that the cost of a college education is increasing, but as that price tag continues to go up, the general perception is now that college may not be the investment it was once touted to be. While colleges nationwide have worked to buck that idea, the bottom line doesn’t lie – nor does the astronomical total of student debt racked up in this country today. Is there a way to invest in a college education without breaking the bank?

Country Financial Survey Reveals Concerns over College Costs Growing
 
A new national survey by Country Financial shows that many are continuing to question the value of a college education today. According to the publication, the survey found that just over half of the Americans interviewed this year thought a college degree was still a worthwhile investment. That number has dropped significantly since 2008, when 81 percent saw college as a good deal.
 
Despite the telltale data into America’s perception of the value of a college degree, higher debt balances to obtain those degrees have become more acceptable. According to the Country Financial website, the survey found that 42 percent of Americans believe student debt in excess of $20,000 is acceptable today. That number contrasts with the 31 percent that found that amount acceptable just last year. By the same token, the number of subjects who thought debt under $20,000 was acceptable declined to 50 percent, after numbers were at 61 percent in 2011.
 
Debt Concerns Guide College Decisions   Although . . . read more
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Recent Articles
Community Colleges Prep for the Future by Focusing on STEM
Community Colleges Prep for the Future by Focusing on STEM
As careers in science, technology, engineering, and math become more prevalent, community colleges are shifting their focus to meet demand and secure their place in a rapidly changing educational landscape.
Community Colleges: Bigger Buck Bang than For-Profits
A recent study reveals that job applicants with a credential or associate’s degree from a community college have slightly better chances of getting a job interview than students who attend a for-profit college or university. Since community colleges are much more budget friendly than for-profit institutions and have much better job placement results, community colleges are a much better option for employment-minded students.
Freshman Year in College Looks More and More Like High School
Nearly 52 percent of community college students in the United States begin their freshman year in at least one remedial class. These courses, which help students acquire knowledge and skills they should have acquired in high school, do not count toward their degree requirements. As a result, students are taking longer than ever to obtain their degree, if they obtain one at all.
Choosing a School

Getting Started

This section provides an in depth look at choosing the right community college. We’ll cover the reasons why community college is a good choice and the best steps to take when making your decision. Find tips and resources to aid in your search for the perfect school.

Community vs. Other Colleges

With so many higher education options, we compare community colleges against other institutions to help you find the best option for your needs. We’ll look at how community colleges are outperforming 4-year schools, study the latest data on the ROI of community colleges and explore why more students are turning to them.

College Rankings & Accreditation

Are you attending one of the best community colleges? Do rankings matter? From the best schools in the US to those losing accreditation, we’ll provide you with the latest resources on community college rankings.

Transfer Process

Many community college students transfer to four-year institutions. Be prepared to make a swift and easy transfer with these articles. Determine the most transfer-friendly universities, learn why some 4-year schools are limiting transfer students, and get tips on ensuring your credits go with you.