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Why Choose to Go to a Community College?

Updated on October 4, 2012
Me in my community college cap and gown - ready to celebrate!
Me in my community college cap and gown - ready to celebrate! | Source

Community colleges – sometimes also called junior colleges – often get a bad rap. People look down on them because they are open enrollment (anyone can go), and they don’t have the same opportunities that some of the four-year universities have. That’s doesn’t make them bad colleges, though, and, many of the things that people see as negatives can actually be positives. Community colleges have a lot to offer their students.

I should know; I’ve been both a teacher and a student at a community college. I dropped out of high school in my senior year, got my GED, and swore off higher education. But then my husband got a job at a community college, and I thought, “why not?” I got my Associate’s degree in General Studies, but then kept going. So far, I’ve gotten a Bachelor’s of Science in Information Technology, a Master’s of Liberal Arts, a Master’s of Arts in English Literature, and a Post-Master’s Certificate in College Teaching. Now I’m enrolled in an MFA in Creative Writing. That is one danger, I suppose, in going to a community college – it might teach you to love learning.

Job Opportunities

Having an Associate’s degree from a community college opens up all sorts of doors in the job market. It can help you become a Registered Nurse, a Dental Hygienist, a Respiratory Therapist, a Computer Programmer, a Telecom Installer, an Industrial Engineering Technician, a Police Officer, an HVAC Mechanic, or a Paralegal. All you need to get started in any of those constantly growing fields is an Associate’s degree.

Costs

As a general rule, community colleges are the best bang for your buck. A recent study done by the Community and Technical Colleges of Washington State discovered that a year at a community college averaged $3,135, while public universities averaged $7,689, private vocational and career colleges averaged $20,750, and private four-year universities averaged $35,000. For an Associate’s degree at a public community college, you may only spend $6,000 or less.

It’s not just the financial costs, either. The time commitment for a degree from a community college is less. Degree programs for Associate’s degrees can generally be finished within two years (with full-time enrollment), and certificate programs normally require approximately half the time of an Associate’s degree. Obviously, the time can vary, but especially with so many community colleges now offering online, evening, and self-paced courses, it may be possible for you to complete the degree in the expected time without taking too big a chunk out of the rest of your life.

Class Size

Unlike universities that offer stadium seating and a hundred other students surrounding you, most community college classes have no more than 30 students. This gives you, the student, an excellent chance of getting to know not only your fellow students, but also your professors. You can ask questions, get additional help, and feel that sense of belonging to a small group. Most community colleges do not employ teaching assistants, which many universities do, which means that your teacher is the one who will be teaching the class, assigning the work, and grading the work. That can make a big difference! After all, who do you want teaching you – a professor or another student?

Community College Success Story from Seminole State College

Scholarships

One great thing about community colleges is that, unless there is a problem, they will offer federal financial aid and grant programs. Because of their low cost, and depending on your income, you may be able to pay for their entire degree without having to borrow money from a private lender or even take out an unsubsidized loan! (Remember, grants don’t need to be paid back as long as any conditions are met; subsidized government loans do not accrue interest while you are in school; unsubsidized government loans do accrue interest while you are in school.)

But that’s not all – many community colleges have special scholarship programs that have been set up by local organizations, past graduates, or others. Since the pool for these scholarships is smaller than national scholarships, you have a greater chance of receiving scholarship funds. Many are specific, such as for male nursing students or female business students, but others are more general and may only require a specific GPA, such as 3.0 or higher. Ask at the financial aid office for a list of scholarships and how to apply for them.

What do you think?

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Degree Programs

Most degree programs at community colleges are approximately 60 credit hours. Keeping in mind that each class is normally three credit hours, that’s only 20 classes. A “full-time” schedule (for financial aid purposes) is 12 credit hours, or about four classes. Some classes may be more than three credit hours, especially sciences and health classes that require labs. However, with that in mind, you can take six semesters (two spring, two summer, and two fall) with only two classes in the summer and four classes in the fall and spring, and in two years, you’ll be graduating!

Community colleges aren’t as limited as they once were. Depending on the school, they may offer degree programs in agriculture, architecture, biological and biomedical sciences, business, communication and journalism, computer sciences, culinary arts, education, engineering, legal, liberal arts or humanities, mechanic and repair technologies, medical and health professions, physical sciences, psychology, and visual and performing arts. Check the catalog for your local community college – you may be surprised with all the options you find!

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs are often 20 to 30 credit hours, and they are meant to be completed in approximately a year. Certificate programs are focused on a single topic, and because of that, they often do not require all the classes that an Associate’s degree would, such as English, math, etc.

By no means a complete listing, these are just some of the certificate programs offered by community colleges: child development or early childhood education, communications and broadcasting, computer sciences, court reporting, criminal justice, culinary arts, EMT, END, industrial design, office administration, paralegal, pharmacy technician, process technology, and vocational nursing, as well as other health-related specialties.

Community: Study Break Mini Episode #1

Transfer Programs and Matriculation Agreements

In many cases, you can take your community college Associate’s degree and go to a public (or some private) universities, taking the first two years off of the Bachelor’s program. Many community colleges will have matriculation agreements or transfer programs set up with local universities; they provide the community college with requirements for the first two years of the program, and student can complete the two years, walking in with only two years left to finish a Bachelor’s degree, but at a fraction of the cost of the full degree if it had been taken at the university.

In addition, many states are now allowing high school students to take college-level classes for dual credit. For example, in Texas, the TEA reports that in 2009, 308 students earned both a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree at the same time. Check with your local high school and community college to see if it’s an option for you.

Community colleges may be portrayed as a joke or funny, especially in some television shows, but they aren’t. They can help you save money and time and provide you with a great future and career opportunities in as little as a year.

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    • CZCZCZ profile image

      CZCZCZ 4 years ago from Oregon

      Great hub. I went to community college before going to a 4 year university. It allowed me to get a lot of the basic course out of the way on the cheap. I think it can be a good solution for a lot of students and should be highly considered if you are concerned about the total cost of education and planning on staying in your home state to go to college.

    • Junaid Ghani profile image

      Junaid Ghani Durrani 4 years ago from Karachi, Pakistan

      Community colleges provide easy access to knowledge with cheap sources. Nice hub katsanger!

    • profile image

      ElleBee 4 years ago

      Great article. I worked on campus at a community college for a year, and was so impressed by it I wish I had gone myself! I am quickly learning just what "community" means for our local CC - they are an active member of the business community, and offer lots of seminars for businesses and professionals, they offer prep courses for all sorts of exams (CDL License, LSAT, GRE, pharmacy technician etc). They also have lots of great connections with businesses in the community that my expensive 4-year liberal arts school didn't always have!

    • vijaykumarcmeseo profile image

      vijaykumarcmeseo 4 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      great hub as it is choosen hub of the day great hub about college @katsanger waiting more hubs from u..........

    • bankscottage profile image

      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Congratulations on your HOTD! I am a BIG proponent of community colleges. My eldest son "attended" a major university. Too bad he didn't attend classes. After dropping out and working for a few years he went back to school at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh. Credits were only $85. He earned two associate degrees in drafting (many engineering grads from nearby major universities were in his classes. The major universities didn't teach drafting, something the engineers needed to know for their jobs!). He got a job with an engineering firm using what he learned. With the help of the GI Bill (he had joined the reserves) and employer education payments he is going to another university in the evening and weekends to earn an engineering degree. Of the 3 schools my son has attended, he insists the best teachers were at CCAC. They not only taught, they did. They used what they were teaching in their full time jobs when they weren't teaching.

      So lets see what is so "bad" about community colleges. Low cost (maybe no or very little debt after graduation). Courses that actually lead to employment in your field of study. Credits that can be transferred almost anywhere. Teachers that use what they teach. Classes that are scheduled evenings, weekends, and on-line so you can still work. Guess the only thing missing is a football team ;-) I can see why major universities would think CCs are "bad".

      Great Hub, deserving of the award. Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for a good look at community colleges!

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 4 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Fantastic Hub Internet article Kat. Very powerful and full of surprises like the cost evaluation regarding the return with the market place of employment. And, too the potential for broadening a specific 'major' and/or minors.

      The formula by some here near San Marcos with Palomar and MiraCosta Community colleges with barely across the highway California State University San Marcos is focusing on basics. Many who desire that academia of a university focus on those basic classes required to graduate and are transferable. Some realize those opportunities into the third year requirements too for their chosen major. I guess one could say there is power with choice in electives.

      I can see you have a well thought out foundation for a base hub as a center point. I look forward to the expansion of this catalyst of learning and its potential. What a wonderful and awesome idea . . .

      Tim

    • sharewhatuknow profile image

      sharewhatuknow 4 years ago from Western Washington

      Excellent hub Kat. You are right, some TV shows that I have watched make fun of people who attend community colleges, or acquired a degree from one. Why? I suppose the rich and powerful started that one to make anyone who can't attend some Ivy League to feel inferior, not only in class, pardon the pun, but in how much of an education acquired.

      I attended a community college and completed about 35 credits. Just because it was a cc doesn't mean that I did not study my butt off or learn anything, especially with college arithmetic. I did.

      Voted your hub up and useful.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Terrific Hub! I could not agree with you more. I am a product of a Junior/Community College who like you, just kept going. I earned my PhD and now teach European History. I am horrified at the debt that students and parents take on...and it is so unnecessary. I try to talk everyone I know into starting at a local Community or Junior College. Thank you for an important and very well-written essay. SHARING.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Community colleges are awesome! I teach classes at our major University as well as the community college (English Composition), and we teach pretty much the same thing. Students get the same quality or better, as, like you said, they don't have grad students teaching them. Not that it's necessarily bad as I was a pretty good darn good grad asst, I think. Not all are proficient teachers, though.

      The cost is good, the programs are practical--the community college is just a great option. Congrats on HOTD. Well done!

    • Night Magic profile image

      Night Magic 4 years ago from Canada

      Excellent hub & great info for those that have to make a decision. I'm glad I went to a community college.

    • UBGEmpire profile image

      Dalkiria 4 years ago from ILLINOIS

      My view on community college is based on my experience of being a student of a Junior College. I know that I wasn’t able to afford to go to a four year university but I wasn’t going to let that be the reason to why I can’t better myself with more education. I was told by one of my counselor at my high school that due to my grades that I was able to attend one of the closet school and he gave me an opportunity to fill out for scholarships I received a few but the only problem is that I was only good for a year. So my problem was only elevated for a brief time period, but during those two semesters I gained valuable and transferable credits for my associates in Business Management at a reasonable price.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 4 years ago from USA

      I think community colleges are a great idea - you can earn college credits while going to school, and have a degree that you can start using in just two years. Besides saving you money, it may even give you a higher income earlier, as you go on for the rest of your bachelor's degree. Voted up. Congratulations on your well-deserved hub of the day!

    • StephSev108 profile image

      Stephanie Marie Severson 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thank you for such a useful hub. I voted up.

    • profile image

      mours sshields 4 years ago from Elwood, Indiana

      I would neverwant to put down a community college. I think it's a worthwhile avenue. Besides, in this economy a person can save money and still get an education!

      Marcia Ours

    • UrbanTG profile image

      UrbanTG 4 years ago

      Great hub

    • ComfortB profile image

      Comfort Babatola 4 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      I went to one of the very popular universities. My professors were never available 50% of the time. I got to have an appreciation for community colleges when I needed to take a certificate program in Visual Basics. I did it at a community college, and I got all the one-on-one that I needed from the instructors.

      When I later became one of the instructors, and I was able to give back to my students. BTW, students in community colleges get more hands-on, one-on-one with their instructors.

      Great hub, and congrats on the HOTD award!

    • treehousebrandon profile image

      Brandon Carr 4 years ago from Seymour, CT

      Community college is great for those trying to save money and not go into debt. The credits transfer to four year colleges in most cases, and you can get an Associates degree as a backup in case the four year school doesn't work out!

    • kathleenkat profile image

      kathleenkat 4 years ago from Bellingham, WA

      I attended community college for my accociate's degree, and transferred the credits to a four year university. It was a very smart choice, financially and socially, on my part. The smaller classes helped me gain lifelong professor references, and the flexible class options gave me the oportunity to work full time and take courses at night or online. I am glad you shared this; so many people miss out on community college, and spend tons of money taking freshman level classes at a 4 year university.

      Another thing about community colleges, is they are taught by people who *want* to teach. 4 year universities have people with phd's, who are often just teaching to get research grant money; because they have to. There are a lot of masters level teachers at community college, and they are there because they want to teach, and got the credentials to do so. You don't need a teaching certificate if you have a phd, to teach.

    • Miss Mimi profile image

      Miss Mimi 4 years ago from On the road again

      Nice thoughts. My sister graduated from high school and got her Associate's from the local community college at the same time, like the students in Texas you mentioned. I went to a really expensive private school and, since I was responsible for all of my bills, graduated with considerable debt. Looking back and comparing with my sister, community college sounds like a fantastic option. It's a shame they tend to have a bad reputation, though thankfully that seems to be changing. Great hub, voted up and sharing! And congrats on Hub of the Day!

    • Esmeowl12 profile image

      Cindy A. Johnson 4 years ago from Sevierville, TN

      I relucantly entered a junior college after learning I couldn't afford the institution I wanted to attend. It was a fantastic experience in every way. I learned so much, made lasting friendships (and connections) and it cost so much less. I was able to transfer to the liberal college of my choice for my bachelor and master's degrees. I now am an adjunct instructor at our local community college.

      Great, informative hub!

    • adf3180 profile image

      April Finny 4 years ago from Michigan

      I think your post was write on. I too, am a proponent of community college. I got two degree's from one, went on to a four year university, now I am working on my Master's degree.

      I think some people fail to realize is that a university type setting is not for everyone and community college is the perfect opportunity for those people to get their feet wet in college life.

      Great post, very informative and accurate!

    • ambercita04 profile image

      Amber 4 years ago from Winter Park

      I have always told my students to go to a community college to get their general ed courses out of the way and then switch over to a state college. It is always cheaper to go to a community college, which offers a great education that is equal to an expensive school. Not to mention you aren't a number but rather a person whom the professor actually takes the time to help.

    • billd01603 profile image

      billd01603 4 years ago from Worcester

      Great Hub. My son went to a four year public college and now he starting out life with a $35,000 debt. He wouldn't take my advice and go to a school he could afford and now he regrets it.

    • zacharybrown profile image

      Zachary Brown 3 years ago from Seattle, WA

      This is a fantastic article and everyone considering the possibilities for their college education should read. Community College offers some amazing opportunities to students at every stage of their learning career now matter what phase of life you are in. It is an affordable and a very sensible approach to starting a fruitful college career.

    • Torrs13 profile image

      Tori Canonge 3 years ago from California

      This is a very well written hub! I originally went to a four year school and then decided to take some time off three years into it. After a year, I decided it was time to go back, but I wasn't ready to jump straight into a university again. I enrolled in the local community college for one semester to get back into the groove of everything. My professors were just as good as some of my university professors had been and the class sizes were small. I liked that I got to know my professors on an individual level. I think that community college is a great option for students, especially with rising tuition prices.

    • profile image

      Manuel 2 years ago

      If it can teach you important siklls that you can walk away with then it may be worth a shot, but I think I would hire someone who came from a standard Uni before an online one.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub Kat. I went to a community college and have an Associate's in Liberal Arts. Very useful for every high school student who's considering their choices after graduation. Voted up!

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