Community college jokes have been around for years – “it’s just high school with ashtrays” is a common one – and people often think of community colleges as trade schools, but more and more people are giving community college a second thought as tuition costs rise and the job market declines.
Community colleges do offer programs that prepare students to enter the work force after they’ve learned a particular trade, but they also serve as stepping stones between high school and four-year colleges and universities. In addition to offering diplomas and certificates for various career-preparation programs, community college students can also earn an associate’s degree, typically following a two-year course of study. Associate’s degrees are considered the lowest post-secondary academic degrees, but they’re often awarded to students who wish to continue their studies at a four-year institution. In fact, some four-year colleges and universities also award associate’s degrees.
If you’re thinking about beginning or returning to college, the following list contains several popular reasons that some students choose community college over four-year colleges and universities:
1. Lower tuition. Community college tuition is considerably lower than tuition at four-year colleges and universities. Whether you want to earn an associate’s degree and enter the work force or continue your education to earn a bachelor’s degree, attending community college for two years will save you a lot of money. P.S. Even though tuition at community college is low, students are still eligible for financial aid.
2. Convenient locations. Community colleges are located in cities and towns across the country, and most likely there is one near you. You will be able to save money on room and board by living at home and commuting to class.
3. Flexible class schedules. Many community college students have full-time jobs, so classes are offered during the evening and on weekends in addition to traditional morning and afternoon timeslots. You will be able to create a class schedule that accommodates you, not the other way around.
4. Smaller classes. Community college instructors are able to get to know their students and provide assistance when necessary. The class sizes at community colleges are much smaller than typical classes at larger schools.
5. The opportunity to explore various subject areas. If you want to go to school but aren’t quite sure what career path you’d like to take, community college will provide you with the opportunity to explore various subject areas. You will not have to commit to a specific program or major until you are ready to do so, and the lower tuition rates mean you will not be as concerned about finances as you would at a larger, more expensive school.
6. You want to earn a career-oriented degree or certificate. Community colleges typically offer programs that can prepare you to work in a particular field—programs which are not available at four-year colleges and universities, such as computer repair, fashion design, food service, or paralegal studies.
7. You’re just not sure if you want to go to college. If you aren’t one hundred percent sure you even want to go to college, community college can give you a chance to “get a feel for it” by trying out a few classes without spending a fortune.
If you would like more information about community colleges in your area, you can contact the school directly or utilize the various search tools that we provide. The Featured University Profiles section located on the front page of StateUniversity.com also gives you the ability to learn about four-year schools and community colleges in your area.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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