Should you go to community college or a four-year institution upon graduating from high school? The reasons for choosing community college first may be more compelling than you currently believe.
As the cost of tuition continues to increase at institutions of higher education across the country, many students are considering a transition to community college once they earn their high school diploma. Although these schools were once considered below par in terms of postsecondary education, the quality provided by many community colleges has been on track with many four-year schools today. The focus on community colleges by the Obama Administration has resulted in additional funding and industry-focused training that increases employment opportunities once the degree is earned. We have eight reasons why community college might be the best choice for some high school graduates.
Although tuition is getting more expensive across the board, community colleges are still significantly more affordable than most four-year institutions. The average annual rate to attend a four-year university could run as high as $30,000 or more, while the annual tuition at a community college probably won’t cost much more than $5,000. In addition, many community college students continue to live at home while taking classes, saving money on room and board as well.
With more affordable prices overall, community college students often find they can foot the bill for their education without having to take on a significant amount of debt prior to graduation. Considering that many university students graduate with debt in the six-figure range, this is a huge financial advantage both during school and after graduation.
Easier Admission Policies
According to the Sallie Mae website, community colleges typically have an “open door” admission policy that means anyone can register for the school as long as he has a high school diploma or GED. Although community colleges may ask for SAT or ACT scores as a part of the admission process, these tests do not typically keep students out of the school like they might with many four-year institutions. Community colleges also provide their own placement examinations, which are primarily used to determine whether students require any remedial courses before moving into college-level curriculum.
For high school graduates with less-than-stellar GPAs, community colleges offer a chance to start on a postsecondary education. Students that are able to pull up the grades during the community college years may have a better chance of moving to a four-year school to finish out a degree program.
High school graduates who find they need to work while in college may discover that community college schedules are much more flexible than those provided by a four-year institution. These schools are accustomed to catering to adult students who are juggling professional and family responsibilities along with their studies. Community colleges typically offer evening, weekend and online options to help these students work their academics around the rest of their activities.
Some students have difficulty transitioning from a small high school to a large, impersonal university. These students may find the smaller campus and classes of a community college are more comfortable right after the high school years. Community colleges typically offer more personalized attention, from the counselors in the admissions office to the professors in the classroom. A community college student reporting in Studenomics stated that some of his classes had 30 students or less, and as many as 75 percent of his professors knew him by name. In addition, the smaller campus size may seem less intimidating for a high school graduate to navigate successfully.
High school graduates who are unsure of what they want to study or intimated by the idea of a university may find community college to be an easier transition. These students can take a variety of general courses to find their area of interest, in an environment that is often more supportive than a larger school. Once students spend two years at a community college, they are often better prepared to move to the next step, whether it is a four-year school to finish a bachelor degree or the professional workforce with their training in hand.
Because community colleges tend to focus on preparing students for the professional world, they offer many hands-on experiences that might not be available at a four-year school. For example, students in the dental hygiene program might work in an actual dental clinic when not in class, while cosmetology students might actually work with clients right in the classroom environment. Internships and volunteer opportunities often abound at two-year schools as well, giving students on-the-job training that beefs up the resume and prepares them for a career.
Since community colleges frequently partner with local industries, employers from those industries are often right on the community college campus, interacting with students and staff. For students who know the industry they want to move into after college, this environment provides the perfect opportunity for networking with potential employers and others already working in the field. USA Today reports that community college students often find opportunities for internships and mentoring through networking on campus.
After community college, graduates have a number of post-degree options to pursue. Some move directly into the workforce, after receiving the specific training necessary to work in the industry of their choice. Others transfer to a four-year school, continuing their postsecondary education all the way to a bachelor degree or higher. No matter what you future aspirations might be, community college may be the logical next step on the path to your career or education plans.
Community college has become a viable option for many high school graduates today. Whether you know what you want to do when you grow up or simply want time to explore your options, the local community college may be the right start on the road to a bright future.
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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.