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.
View the most popular articles in Choosing a School:
In the face of many difficulties, which include massive budget cuts, low graduation rates, and students that need an abundance of guidance and support to stay on track, community colleges throughout the nation are finding ways to keep their doors open and graduate students on time. No school has been more successful in making the most out of a less-than-ideal situation than Rio Salado College.
Rio Salado is part of the Maricopa Community College District, a ten-campus system in Phoenix that offers over 10,000 courses for it’s 250,000 students on campus and online. It is one of the largest higher education institutions in the United States. Rio Salado accounts for roughly 60,000 of the system’s students, many of which attend part-time in order to accommodate work schedules and family needs due to economic disadvantages.
Students who come from poverty have the odds stacked against them with regard to graduation. The graduation rate for community college students in the United States is at most 40 percent, but that number falls drastically for poor and working-class students. According to the New York Times, only about one-quarter of college freshmen born into families in the bottom half of the income spectrum will go on to get an undergraduate degree within six years. Yet, 90 percent of students in the top one-quarter of the income spectrum will obtain their degree. Quite simply, socioeconomic status will greatly determine whether a student
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In the summer of 2013, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), the accrediting agency responsible for oversight of California’s massive community college system, came under fire for withdrawing its accreditation of the City College of San Francisco. Among the ACCJC’s findings was that the college failed to balance its budget and was deficient in staffing and facility repairs. Upon making their recommendation for revocation available to the public, ACCJC faced a firestorm of criticism, with supporters of the college claiming that the commission’s decision was fueled by political bias.
Additional criticism has since been leveled against the organization for not following its own policies during the accreditation process. In fact, ACCJC has been reprimanded by the U.S. Department of Education for failing to meet federal guidelines in its review of the City College of San Francisco. Furthermore, ACCJC is accused of violating conflict of interest laws by appointing the husband of the commission’s president to an accreditation review team.

What has resulted is a nationwide spotlight on the methods by which community colleges and other institutions of higher learning gain accreditation. Critics of the current system contend that without federal oversight – accrediting organizations are self-regulated – commissions are apt to abuse of power and work under a cloak of secrecy. While these allegations are specific to ACCJC, the criticisms of its policies and procedures have been echoed nationwide. Together with a general confusion regarding the
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A new program sponsored by the State Bar of California’s Council on Access and Fairness is creating new partnerships between 24 California community colleges and six law schools that will create a new pathway to law school for thousands of community college students. The Community College Pathway to Law School Initiative is a “pipeline program” that will offer community college students a host of resources to help them achieve their dream of practicing law. From tutoring and mentoring services to financial aid counseling and early exposure to law-related courses, the program will increase access to law school by making the transitions from a two-year institution to a four-year institution to law school occur in a much more smooth manner.
Seeking to Improve Diversity
At the heart of the program is a desire to increase diversity in California’s law schools, which traditionally have been overwhelmingly white. For example, about 70 percent of the University of California at Davis’ Law School identifies as white. Furthermore, throughout the first decade of the 2000s, although the number of available seats in law schools throughout the country increased, the percentage of black and Mexican-American students filling those seats declined. However, not all law schools in California lack diversity. The law school at the University of California at Irvine, which opened in 2009, boasts a 45 percent minority enrollment.

While UC Irvine has had success in attracting minority students, the percentage of minority applicants
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A recent study shows that one out of every ten community college students lose nearly all of their credits upon transferring to a four-year institution. In fact, just 58 percent of students who being their studies at a two-year institution report having more than 90 percent of their credits transferring to a baccalaureate program at a four-year college or university. As a result, a large number of students who dream of obtaining an undergraduate degree never get one because the credits they worked so hard to obtain do not count at their new school.
An Uphill Battle
Students who begin their post-secondary education at a community college are already less likely to graduate with a bachelor’s degree than their peers who begin study at a four-year institution. This is not to say that community colleges are somehow failing their students, rather, it is most likely life events that curtail a student’s educational aspirations. Family issues, financial difficulties, or changes in job or childcare availability are just a few common issues that force community college students to put their studies on hold. Unfortunately, the already narrow likelihood that a student will get a bachelor’s degree is further diminished when they take a break from school to attend to life’s pressing issues.

Even when students are able to stick with it and collect enough credits to transfer, they often discover that many of their credits will not be counted at their new school.
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As City College of San Francisco fights to remain open after the current school year, others are beginning to question the validity of an accrediting agency that is threatening the very existence of vital California community colleges. Scrutiny and even lawsuits are leaving the accrediting agency vulnerable, while other California schools struggle with the realization their accreditation may be the next on the line. How will this growing problem eventually be resolved?
More California Schools Heading to the Chopping Block?
The chancellor of the California Community College System, Bryce Harris, recently stated at the San Francisco Business Times that the possible de-accreditation of City College of San Francisco might be just the tip of the iceberg. Harris told the Business Times that as many as 20 California schools could be facing accreditation challenges in the not-so-distant future. While Harris did not name specific school names in his warning, he admitted the problems facing City College could plague many other schools in the state.
In July, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) announced it would be pulling City College’s accreditation at the end of the current academic year in 2014. The commission cited a number of reasons for the decision, including a confusing structure of governance and lack of financial accountability. Other factors that led to the action by the commission included support services, facilities and teaching standards that were not compliant with the commission’s requirements in these areas.
As one solution to the problem,
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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.