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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After a full year of carefully assessing community colleges around the country, the Aspen Institute has recognized the top five performing schools with acclaim and hefty financial prizes. The awards were announced at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., where educators, business leaders and lawmakers were all in attendance. These five schools represent a broad base of institutions of higher education, in terms of demographics, location and areas of specialization.

About the Aspen Institute Award
 
The Aspen Institute began their quest for the top community college with a short list of 1,000 community colleges across the country. According to the Aspen Institute website, colleges were assessed on the following criteria:
 
       ·         Student Learning
       ·         Degree Completion and Transfer Rates
       ·         Equity in Education
       ·         Employment and Earning Potential after College
 
Improvement was also an area of careful scrutiny, particularly in regards to completion rates. With these factors in mind, the Aspen Institute was able to narrow the initial list of 1,000 schools to 120 by this past spring. From there, the organization chose 10 finalists to award prizes; one top school was awarded $600,000, four runners-up each received $100,000, and five additional schools each received a glass trophy for their efforts.
 
The Focus on Community Colleges
 
The role of community colleges in higher education has long been underestimated, but President Obama breathed new life into these institutions when he set an ambitious goal of graduating eight million more students from college by 2020. To achieve that goal, the President has said time and . . . read more

In what has been called a major setback for Minnesota community college students, the University of Minnesota has formally announced plans to reduce the number of transfer students to the school. While the university claims that the decrease will be just a “drop in the bucket” in regards to total transfer numbers, students and community college officials are voicing their concerns over the policy change. With community college enrollment increasing nationwide, it is possible that other universities will eye the new University of Minnesota policy with interest as they grapple with their own issues regarding a rising number of transfer students.

Pulling Back the Welcome Mat
 
According to a report at TwinCities.com, the welcome mat has a history of being extended to transfer students at the University of Minnesota. In 2009, the school accepted 3,260 new transfer students, which made up nearly 40 percent of their new student population overall. However, the university plans to cut the number of transfer students they accept by roughly eight percent over the next two years – which will translate to around 300 transfer students. The university cites various reasons for their decision, including their desire to form a solid, four-year relationship with more students coming to the school. The school has also stated that fluctuating transfer numbers from year to year put a strain on university resources.
 
Another concern from some university officials is the lack of preparedness seen in some transfer students when they enroll at the four-year school. Need for . . . read more

Students who are serious about earning a four-year degree will find that community college may be a good place for them to begin the process. Thanks to “2+2” programs cropping up across the country, students can now enroll in community college with their eyes set on goals after the associate degree is earned. Through partnerships with nearby universities and online programs, students have a precise educational direction that starts at community college and continues on through the four-year degree program. We’ll take a look at what a 2+2 program offers community college students, as well as examine some of the 2+2 programs going on around the country today.

What is 2+2?
 
According to a report at the Grand Island Independent, a 2+2 program is one that begins in a community college, with a two-year associate degree or certification program. Coursework taken at the community college then transfers to a four-year program, allowing the student to complete a bachelor’s degree in the same amount of time it would have taken if they had gone to the four-year institution right out of high school. Because the program is a partnership between the schools, students enter community college with a four-year end in sight and select courses at the first institution that will help them to achieve their ultimate goals.
 
The community college and four-year school work together to ensure all of the courses they offer complement each other for an overall, comprehensive degree program. Whether the second half of . . . read more

Ten community colleges are enjoying the distinction as one of the finalists for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. The schools featured on this elite list have all shown tremendous strides in important aspects of the college experience, such as student retention, employability after college and academic success while in school. Presidents from the schools on the list were also invited to join President Obama in a roundtable discussion regarding innovations at community colleges and how those ideas can be implemented on other campuses as well. The Aspen Prize has helped to elevate high-achieving community colleges to a visible level where other schools can capitalize on the success and innovation of the finalists to bring their own schools up to par.

What is the Aspen Prize?
 
The Aspen Prize was announced at last year’s community college summit at the White House. The purpose of the prize is to spotlight colleges that have dramatically increased student outcomes, according to a report at the Community College Times. When the ideas and methodology of these outstanding schools are showcased, other schools across the country can implement innovative techniques to improve outcomes on their campuses as well. The 10 finalists were selected from a short list of 120 schools. The winner of the Aspen Prize, as well as three runner-up schools, will be announced in December of this year, when they will all share a portion of the $1 million prize.
 
“The finalists impressed us with their efforts to help . . . read more

Community college has become a viable option for many who want to expand their educational experience, but don’t feel that a four-year university is the right fit for them. As President Obama continues to make community college a focus of his presidency, most potential students are giving these two-year schools a second look as well. There is a wealth of community colleges available today, and the broad spectrum of schools can make it difficult to know which institution will meet the specific needs of a student best. If you are about to embark on a journey into the world of higher education, we have the information you need to ensure you select the best school for you.

Reasons to Choose Community College
 
For those who are still in the process of choosing between a community college and four-year university, it is important to weigh the advantages of a community college before making your selection. Some of the reasons to opt for a community college include:
 
Cost
 
The average cost of tuition at a community college is significantly less than that at a four-year institution, even with recent tuition rate increases at many two-year schools across the country. Students who want a four-year degree can choose to begin their adventure into higher education at a community or junior college, where they can earn credits for a lot less money. If all the credits transfer to a four-year school after the first two years, students enjoy the same bachelor degree as . . . read more
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Recent Articles
Freshman Year in College Looks More and More Like High School
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.
Federal Student Loans – Unavailable at 20% of Community Colleges
Although a community college education is inexpensive when compared to tuition and fees at a four-year institution, some students still need financial assistance to pay their education bills. Yet, some community colleges don’t participate in the federal student loan program, putting some students in a financial bind.
Post-Recession Cliff Looms for Community Colleges
While many factors have contributed to the current decline in community college enrollment, the recovering economy is chief among them. As more and more people return to the workforce, fewer students enroll in courses at community colleges. Many institutions must now deal with budget shortfalls in the face of double-digit declines in enrollment.
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.