With their flexible schedule, qualified professors, and low tuition rates, community colleges are a key to opportunities. In fall 2009, more than 7.5 million students were enrolled at two-year colleges around the United States, according to a 2011 report from Thomas D. Snyder and Sally A. Dillow at the National Center for Education Statistics. That’s up by more than one-third from 1999, according to the Council of Graduate Schools, which called the jump “a rapid expansion.”
The council said that the majority (57 percent) of two-year college enrollees in fall 2009 were enrolled part-time. About 43 percent of two-year College attendees plan to complete an associate’s degree, while about 36 percent plan to transfer to a four-year institution, according to a 2008 report on community colleges by Stephen Provasnik and Michael Planty. Nevertheless, whether a student’s goal is to directly join the labor force or to transfer to a four-year institution, supporters say community colleges provide the training, teaching, and services that are needed in order to be successful.
Five reasons why a person might choose a community college:
- Lower Tuition Costs
According to the American Association of Community College, the average community college tuition fee for the 2013-2014 was $3,260 vs. $9,404 at public four-year universities and $18,850 at private institutions.
- Qualified Professors
Most community college professors find their work sincerely satisfying and they are very competent and confident to teach their matters. A recent national survey of community college faculty members, called B10, found that 73% report experiencing “joy” in their work and 71% believe their work is meaningful. “Teachers at community colleges are charged with connecting with students rather than putting half their time into research and publishing, which often requires putting a student assistant in charge of the actual teaching,” author Brandon Rogers said in his online article, “Why Choose a Community College?” At Middlesex Community College, for instance, there are several exceptionally qualified professors, such as David Kalivas, who has a Ph.D. from Northeastern University, a master’s from University of Connecticut, and a bachelor’s degree from Suffolk University. Kalivas is also the director of the Commonwealth Honors Program at MCC.
- Flexible Schedule
More than 80 percent of community college students work part-time or full-time jobs and many have family responsibilities. Community colleges offer flexible schedules for both day and night courses, and sometimes on weekends, to accommodate working students and parents who appreciate the benefits of getting educated.
- Easy to Transfer
Transferring to a four-year university is so much easier once a student is in a community college. In fact, community college students have the chance to earn college credits while planning which university they would choose to pursue a higher education. According to the 2011 report made by the National Science Foundation, among doctorate recipients in academic year 2009-10, 12 percent had earned college credit from a community or two-year college at some point on their academic path. The American Association of Community College (AACC) claim that roughly 60 percent of students who transferred from a two-year institution to a four-year institution had graduated with a bachelor’s or higher degree within four years. The study shows that students who earned an associate degree before transferring had the highest baccalaureate completion rates at 71 percent. The AACC Transfer Success 2014 Report has shown that students moving from community colleges to public four-year colleges on average had the highest number of transferred credits (30.1). The same group of students also had the highest number of credits earned prior to transfer (37.7). Students switching from public four-year to another public four-year institution had a similar rate of credits transferring (26.2). The findings also show that about 56 percent of all credits transferred were from public two-year colleges.
- Smaller Classrooms
Community college classes are small, averaging 35 students per class, which allows for more interaction between students and instructors. Daniel W. Barwick, an associate professor of philosophy at the State University of New York College of Technology at Alfred, said class sizes at large universities can range upwards of 300 students in a single lecture hall. By contrast, the community college class size has an average of between 25 and 40 students per classroom. “There isn’t even a pretense that one teacher can effectively teach such a large set of students or that the arrangement is ideal; the teacher is equipped with a fleet of teaching ‘assistants,’” Barwick said in his online article, “Does Class Size Matters.” Barwick believes that such conditions are accepted as “a necessary evil that accompanies the large university.” However, the educational value of such a classroom setting is “dubious when compared to some of the alternatives,” the professor said. On the other hand, community colleges offer an environment in which students can simply talk and ask questions of teachers and colleagues, which not only helps them improve their critical thinking but also builds connections.
Not only are community colleges being helpful to students, but they help the U.S. economy as well. “The colleges benefit U.S. businesses by increasing consumer spending and supplying a steady flow of qualified, trained workers into the workforce,” says the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) 2012 report, which says community colleges have been a “boon to the American economy at large and to the individual student.”
“They enrich the lives of students by raising their lifetime incomes and helping them achieve their individual potential. They benefit society as a whole in the U.S. by creating a more prosperous economy and generating a variety of savings through the improved lifestyles of students,” says the report.
“In 2012 alone, the net total impact of community colleges on the U.S. economy was $809 billion in added income, equal to 5.4 percent of GDP. Over time, the U.S. economy will see even greater economic benefits, including $285.7 billion in increased tax revenue as students earn higher wages and $19.2 billion in taxpayer savings as students require fewer safety net services, experience better health, and lower rates of crime.”