The lure of an affordable college education brings countless thousands of students just like you to community college campuses each semester. With a greater breadth and depth of course offerings and degree programs available than ever before, community colleges represent an excellent value for many students who seek to build their skills for future educational and career endeavors. Now, in addition to many associate’s degrees and professional certificate programs, community colleges throughout the country are offering select bachelor’s degree programs, furthering the appeal of the community college route. However, despite many advantages to these programs they are not for everyone.
Degree Programs Around the Nation
The movement to allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees is borne out of the needs of the modern workforce. Education and economic officials recognize that with major gaps in the workforce in the areas of healthcare, energy exploration, and information technology in particular, new workers need to be trained. Community colleges represent an excellent opportunity to train these workers because they are typically at the forefront of educational innovation and are much more able to respond to the changing needs of the workforce than is a four-year institution.
This new wave of educational opportunity is present in all corners of the country. More than a dozen community colleges in Washington State now offer baccalaureate degrees. More than two-dozen two-year institutions in Florida offer four-year degree options. Texas, Hawaii, and West Virginia community colleges have gotten on board with offering bachelor’s degree programs as well. In . . . read more
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
When it became clear that the country was entering a protracted period of economic decline in 2007, traditional and non-traditional aged students alike flocked to nearby community colleges to undertake degree and certificate programs. Some sought to learn new skills in the hopes of retaining their current jobs, while others, laid off from companies tightening their belts, were in search of a completely new set of skills to make themselves more marketable.
As bad as the Great Recession was for many sectors of the economy, it was a boon for community colleges. From 2007 to 2011, the number of students enrolled at community colleges nationwide soared by almost 25 percent. Community colleges benefitted more from the recession than their four-year counterparts for several reasons. First, community colleges are far more cost efficient than four-year colleges and universities, with costs for tuition and fees just a fraction of those at their four-year counterparts. Second, community colleges typically offer more practical and vocational courses that can help students find employment in fast-growing sectors such as information technology and health care. These programs generally take two years or less to complete, therefore students can enter the workforce relatively quickly. Finally, community college is an attractive option for adults who have to work around family schedules and their occupations, because many community colleges offer evening, weekend, and online course options. Thus, when the employment outlook is poor, people can quickly reinvent themselves by obtaining a community college education.
Recent data on community college . . . read more
Tuition is usually a lot cheaper at a community college than it is at a four year college or university. You can save money by taking classes at a community college, and even if you transfer on to another college for a higher degree, those first few years of education will cost you less at the community college. Two years at a four year school could cost you $40,000 but those same two years at a community college may cost half that or less! This option is great for recent high school graduates, adult students, and returning college students who need more education and training . . . read more