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Community Colleges - Advantages and Disadvantages

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Community colleges can be an important part of a postsecondary education. About half of the undergraduate students in the U.S. are attending a community college. Community colleges are preparing students for transfer to 4-year institutions, providing workforce development and skills training, and offering noncredit programs.

There are about 1200 community colleges in the United States with an enrollment of 11.6 million. Of these, 40% are enrolled full time. The choice to attend a community college may be based on open admissions policies, convenience, or the low cost of tuition. Most community college campuses are populated with people of all ages, ethnicities, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Community colleges generally offer three types of programs:

  • Associates degree

An associate’s degree is earned when a student takes necessary courses needed to earn a 2-year degree. This degree will allow for entry into jobs requiring some level of college education but not a full four-year degree. The associate’s degree program also allows students to eventually obtain a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college. By obtaining an associate degree, you complete the necessary “core” requirements. Check with your school for transfer information.

  • Training

Training requires preparation for a state or national exam or certification. Examples of an area of study that requires training include nursing, computer repair, allied health careers, law enforcement, firefighting, and welding). These courses are often geared toward the needs of the local business community.

  • Community learning

This type of instruction offers services of local interest to members of the community. Job placement, adult continuing education classes(for personal achievement or to maintain certification in specialized fields), and developmental classes for children. Most community colleges offer GED opportunities.

Community colleges appear to be essential to a few professions. 50% of new nurses are educated at community colleges. Close to 80% of firefighters, law enforcement officers, and EMTs are credentialed at community colleges. 95% of businesses and organizations that employ community college graduates recommend community college workforce education and training programs. The 5 hottest community college programs are currently: registered nursing, law enforcement, licensed practical nursing, radiology, and computer technologies.

There are advantages and disadvantages to attending a community college. Some of these include:

Community colleges are geared to local students and local needs. You may work with the community on some projects. You may be able to take advantage of a concurrent enrollment program in high school (taking classes that count as credit for college an high school).Open enrollment policies allow those that recognized the benefits of education late in life to get a fresh start. Tuition and fees are substantially lower than a four-year college. If you need to attend part time, you won’t have time limits imposed on your study. Small classes at a community college may aid in your learning. Research has shown that there is no learning or income disadvantage because of starting at a community college. Holders of a two year associate degree have more immediate earning potential.

Transferring credits can sometimes be a problem. Your school may have an articulation agreement that allows associate degrees to qualify for transfer. It is frequent for many courses to be taught by part-time lecturers. These lecturers generally hold a master’s degree in the field. According to statistics, 42% of public community college freshmen take remedial courses. 79% of remedial courses are taught by part-time faculty. Most schools are commuter campuses. This causes the social benefits and potential networking opportunities to be lost. Community colleges Community colleges might have fewer sections available for students to enroll. Many community colleges have concurrent enrollment programs with local universities which permits students to complete the required lower division courses prior to transferring.

Research shows that education pays. Students with associate degrees and certificates are more likely to be in higher status management and professional jobs with higher earnings. The average expected lifetime earnings for a graduate with an associate degree are $1.6 million, about $.4 million more than a high school graduate earns.


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