Community colleges have come a long way since their inception. Instead of falling into the ranks of the “fallback” plan, many of these schools have now become a first choice for students looking to change career direction or explore higher education for the first time. With a focus on the community college system in recent years, the changes on these campuses have been even more pronounced, with a wider variety of degree programs, services and even on-campus housing. Check out these five ways community colleges have evolved to become full-service institutions of higher education.
Greater Diversity in Degree Programs
Community colleges were typically known for their relatively generic, liberal arts degree programs, but not any longer. Today’s student can choose from a wide range of two-year degrees, ranging from fine arts to engineering. Many of the degree programs at community colleges today are industry-centric, meaning they focus on training individuals for jobs in the local market. Schools even partner with employers in the community to ensure the training students receive at the community college can take them right into the workforce.
Some of the unique and interesting programs you might find at your local community college today include:
- Solar Energy Technology
- Sustainable Agriculture
- Performing Arts and Music
- Computer Engineering
- Exercise Science
- Nursing and Healthcare
- Manufacturing Engineering
Even fields like culinary arts, funeral home management and criminal justice can be studied at some community colleges. No matter what you are interested in studying, you may find the courses you are looking for. These schools also provide a range of two-year degrees, transfer programs and certification programs to ensure you get just as much education as you need to launch a career in the industry of your choice.
Many students no longer have to wait for college until after high school graduation, thanks to many of the dual-enrollment programs available today. Dual enrollment allows qualifying high school students to simultaneously enroll in community college classes even while they are still in high school. The programs are available across the country, giving ambitious students a leg up on their academic careers. Most of these programs waive fees and tuition for high school students, which also helps families save a significant amount of money on the cost for higher education.
For students interested in a dual-enrollment program, there are a few facts to keep in mind:
- Not all courses may be offered through the dual-enrollment program, limiting the class choices somewhat for high school students.
- Most schools will require a minimum GPA and recommendations from teachers to gain access to dual-enrollment programs.
- Courses at the college may be offered on weekends or during holidays, limiting the amount of time off the high school students enjoy.
- Grades earned through the dual-enrollment program may become a permanent part of the student’s high school and college transcripts.
Transfer and Four-Year Programs
Another option that is relatively new to community colleges is the choice of enrolling in either a transfer program or a four-year degree program right at the local community college. Transfer programs often involve agreements with four-year institutions in the state, according to a report in the New York Times. The agreements ensure that the credits students take at the community college will transfer to the four-year school and apply toward a four-year degree. This option allows a student to begin college work at a community college, saving money and allowing students with less than stellar high school grades the chance to bring their coursework up to par.
Some community colleges are also offering four-year baccalaureate degree programs today. Community College Week reported that community colleges offering baccalaureate degrees is one of the hottest trends in higher education currently. These programs must be authorized by the state’s governing board and a local Board of Trustees. A number of these four-year programs are available through community colleges in Florida, but the trend is spreading nationwide as well.
Investment into Technology
Technology is also an evolution that has come to community colleges, in a concerted effort to compete with four-year schools in the area. In addition to a wealth of technology-focused degree programs now available at community colleges, campuses are equipping themselves with the latest technology equipment to offer students the highest possible quality of education. Campus Technology reports that the addition of technology has helped community colleges cope with growing enrollment numbers in recent years and has provided additional options to students who require flexibility and convenience in their college experience.
Online Schooling Adds Flexibility
One of the most popular additions to community colleges in recent years is the ability to earn college credit from the comfort of home. Online schooling has become a way for many working adults to find the time to further their education without sacrificing the family budget. Many schools offer online degree programs, which can be earned completely on the computer, or through a hybrid program that combines class instruction with online learning. With a growing number of degree programs now online, students can choose from a number of training options that prepare them for the workforce without the need to spend hours on a college campus, away from their job and family.
Community colleges look much different than they used to, as these institutions rise up to become the training grounds of a future workforce. If you have never visited your local community college before, or if it has been years since you considered studying on one of these campuses, now is the time to check out your local community college to see what changes are waiting for you.