Why go to community college? Here are 10 good reasons

Published 9:30 am Friday, July 10, 2009

In my June 19th column (“Community colleges provide bright futures”), fast facts on American community colleges were featured. On that same date (coincidentally), an article entitled “10 Reasons to Pick a Community College,” written by Lynn F. Jacobs and Jeremy S. Hyman, was published on a U.S. News and World Report blog, cited below:

While there are many reasons that nearly half of American undergraduates start their higher education in a community college, Jacobs and Hyman have identified the top 10:

■ 1. Affordability. The average annual tuition and fees for full-time students at community colleges are $2,402, versus $6,585 at a public four-year college or university and $25,143 at a private institution. Additionally, students can live at home and save on housing and food. Plus, they often qualify for financial aid and have options for work-study or part-time jobs while attending.

■ 2. Convenience. In addition to traditional day classes, community colleges offer classes at times and locations convenient for students (off-campus, in the evenings or on weekends, on line). And students can attend on a part-time or full-time basis.

■ 3. Open access. Anyone with a high school diploma or equivalent can enroll in a community college, some while in high school to get an early start, and starting at a community college gives students the opportunity to improve their high school record before transferring to a university. Nonetheless, open access does not mean that students can take any course; they usually are given placement tests and then advised and placed in developmental courses if their scores are not up to college-level work.

■ 4. Teaching quality. Community college classes are taught by faculty who care about teaching and student learning — not by teaching assistants. Community college faculty are fully committed to teaching and are not pulled away by research or the need to publish to meet tenure requirements. Community colleges are accredited by the same agencies that accredit major universities.

■ 5. Class size. Class size at community colleges is much smaller than freshman and sophomore classes at public universities, with most classes having fewer than 35 students. This makes for more opportunities for student and teacher interaction and faculty accessibility.

■ 6. Support services. Community colleges provide a variety of services to help students, including counseling, advising, tutorials, health care, financial aid and library assistance. And computer labs are typically available on campus to make it easier for students to complete assignments.

■ 7. Choices. Offering vocational and academic transfer programs, community colleges, for example, prepare most of the nation’s registered nurses, police officers, paramedics, firefighters and advanced-skill technicians. They also offer courses that transfer to universities and count toward a bachelor’s degree; certificate programs that can be completed in a year or less; and associate-degree programs that take two full years of courses work.

■ 8. Diversity. Community colleges serve the most diverse group of students in all of higher education, providing the opportunity to interact and learn from other students with different backgrounds. Students differ by age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and degree of disability. And international students add yet more to the mix.

■ 9. Access to modern technology. Since community colleges form partnerships with business and industry, they often have cutting-edge equipment that is used in the classroom. And employers want workers with experience with equipment being used by industry.

■ 10. Good company. For those students who feel discouraged by the prospect of attending a community college, versus their first-choice university, following are people who started in a community college: J. Craig Venter, who mapped the human genome; Richard Carmona, former U.S. surgeon general; Eileen Collins, the first NASA female commander; Nick Nolte, actor; Harry Reid, Senate majority leader; Nolan Ryan, retired baseball pitcher; several Nobel laureates, state governors, members of Congress, famous sports figures, famous actors and distinguished business executives — in addition to thousands of nurses, skilled technicians, artists, police officers, firefighters and EMTs.

For information on options available at your community college, call 569-6700 or visit www.pdc.edu.

patsy joyner is vice president for institutional advancement at Paul D. Camp Community College. Her e-mail address is pjoyner@pc.vccs.edu.