Community college can come across as a four-year college’s younger sibling, often forgotten about and left behind, a la Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) of Home Alone. But that would be an underestimation, just as it was in Home Alone, as no doubt burglars Harry and Marv (Joe Pesci & Daniel Stern) can attest.
In the conversation about attending college, community colleges sometimes get short shrift. Prestige is a word that gets tossed around a lot in this conversation; it can sometimes feel like it’s more about where a person went to school than what they studied, how they conduct themselves, or what a person has to say or do now. There are smart reasons to attend community college, so let’s go over a few right now.
There’s no doubt that college is expensive. Four-year schools, whether private or public, often cost more and, as CNBC reported in December, “2020 was also the year the United States surpassed owing over $1.7 trillion in student debt for the first time.”
According to the Trends in College Pricing 2019 report, issued by the College Board, the average tuition and fee of a “public two-year in-district” college are $3,730 as compared to $10,440 for a “public four-year in-state” college and $26,820 for a “public four-year out-of-state” institution. There’s no doubt community college provides a more cost-effective alternative.
A NOTE: Financial aid and scholarships can apply as readily to community colleges as they do to four-year schools. Check out these past blogs on financial aid applications and finding the right scholarship for you to learn more.
According to US News & World Report, as pulled from a 2018 National Center for Education Statistics enrollment survey, 64% of students enrolled at community colleges are part-time. Community college allows students to dip their toe into higher education without committing one hundred percent.
As well, students who struggled in high school and are holding down a job may want to begin their foray into higher education but want a slower or more flexible pace. It’s the equivalent of wading into the pool versus cannonballing into the deep end. The academic flexibility serves another purpose too. For example, if you plan to move on to a four-year college, but aren’t sure what you want to study, a community college can give you the chance to explore your passions and goals.
Many prospective students are looking to get more involved in so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math) careers. Short of pursuing a four-year or even professional degree you can still study and acquire skill sets in these high-demand fields, like cybersecurity, at a community college.
As I’ve written before, these are some of our most in-demand careers and fields and the fact that a reasonable and useful skillset can be acquired at less than half the price that it takes to attend a four-year college is a great deal all involved, including the student, the community college, and the country.
We’ve all seen that movie set on a college campus: ginormous lecture hall, massive class of milling students, a professor no larger than a little speck standing by a blackboard, droning on about one thing or another. But this is usually not so at a community college.
Because of smaller class sizes, students at community colleges will have the opportunity to learn at their own pace, interact more with their professors, and ask questions along the way.
Let’s say you want to advance in your field; there’s nothing with a little ambition. But you want to stop short of the expense and time commitment required by the graduate school. A certificate sounds like the right idea for you. Certificate programs, especially in technology and other fields, can give you the step up from the competition and can be pursued, in-person or online, at community colleges across the country.
There’s a wide array of certification programs, ranging from paralegal studies to real estate to computer science. Many programs offer the same flexible schedule and different time requirements that would bring students to community colleges in the first place. Check out these guides from Indeed.com, US News & World Report, and Campus Explorer to learn more about which certificate programs may be right for you.
Finally, and this is a biggie. With the current pandemic, all schooling has gone online. But, when combined with the other benefits of community college I’ve listed above, it’s clear that taking classes at a community college online may be a smart solution for busy, enterprising, ambitious professionals.
Remember that the credits acquired at a community college, online or not, potentially could be utilized to pursue a four-year degree later on. Online education is yet another example of such educational flexibility.
To anyone uncertain of what community college is or what the benefits might be, let the above information provide just a few of the answers. The fact is, at this time, everyone is looking for ways to improve, grow, develop, and emerge from this pandemic a bit better than before.
At the same time, people are busier than ever, juggling jobs, kids, stresses, anxieties, and loads of uncertainty. One of the overarching benefits of community college is that it’s a way to create personal growth that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, is flexible and engaging, and can help both someone who knows exactly what they want and someone whose just a bit curious about higher education.