What is a Community College?

What is a Community College
What is a Community College

Community College: Higher education cannot be approached with a one-size-fits-all mentality. Pursuing a four-year degree straight out of high school is not the goal of every graduate. The thought of having to deal with an enormous amount of student loan debt may also discourage them from doing so.

Due to the complexities of life, some people are unable to take the conventional path toward a bachelor’s degree straight away. As a result, we believe that a community college is an excellent option for anyone who wants to continue or expand their education beyond high school without incurring significant debt, sacrificing their job, or committing completely to higher education.

We aim to highlight the importance of community colleges, which are often overlooked despite helping millions of Americans achieve their educational and career aspirations. According to the Department of Education, there are over 1,400 community colleges across the country, with more than 1,000 public institutions offering two-year degrees in several fields. In 2019, community colleges awarded more than 800,000 associate degrees. Community College Review reports that an increasing number of high school graduates are selecting community colleges over four-year institutions, a trend that is likely to continue due to the current state of the economy.

Choosing community college is a rational decision, and it is not unusual among your peers. Here, we present an overview of community college and its benefits.

Definition of a Community College

The purpose of this post is to clarify what distinguishes community colleges from other educational institutions. In the United States, they are also known as junior colleges, are public two-year postsecondary institutions. While they serve as a stepping stone to traditional four-year colleges for many 18-24 year-olds, they also offer GED programs and remedial education to older students who may have been out of school and in the workforce for some time. Community colleges also offer high school diplomas, technical degrees, and other certifications to polish resumes and boost employment prospects. This makes them an attractive option for nontraditional students, including retirees, working adults, and older adults.

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One advantage of community colleges is their flexibility and ability to accommodate the needs of students of all ages. They have open enrollment policies and admit most students with a high school diploma or equivalent. Unlike four-year colleges, there is no pressure to follow a traditional educational path beyond high school. Most students at community colleges are 18-24 years old, but retirees and working adults also make up a significant portion of the student body. While the associate’s degree is the most commonly offered diploma, some community colleges do offer four-year degrees.

In summary, community colleges can serve as pathways to four-year colleges or as a means of upgrading skills and credentials for those in the workforce. They are an affordable and flexible choice for anyone looking to expand their career opportunities without sacrificing their work-life balance. Community colleges offer something for everyone, regardless of age or academic background.

Are Community Colleges Free?

Although community colleges are more affordable than typical four-year institutions, most of them are not free. However, there have been ongoing discussions about implementing nationwide free community college programs, but none have fully come to fruition. Nonetheless, a few states have created tuition-free programs; although, eligibility requirements and stipulations vary widely. For instance, New York offers the Excelsior Scholarship, which covers two-year and four-year programs for students from families earning less than $125k per year in the CUNY or SUNY systems. Similarly, the Arkansas Future Grant can be pursued for STEM programs, but only by students who graduated from a public high school in Arkansas. Sometimes, such as with the Hawaii Promise Scholarship, community colleges create “last dollar” options for eligible financially-challenged students that have exhausted all other forms of financial aid. Researching available financial aid and scholarship options is advised, with guidance from a high school guidance counselor, community college advisor, local library, or community college bursar office since various eligibility requirements and stipulations exist. Reading the fine print is essential.

Benefits of Community College

The cost and flexibility of community college were already mentioned as two benefits, but there are a few more added bonuses. Smaller class sizes and personalized attention are some of the additional benefits that junior colleges offer. Financial aid is just as easily accessible to community college students as students who attend four-year institutions.

  • They offer a special perk that many working adults desire: flexibility. Juggling work, school, and family life is tough, so being able to attend school on your own time is amazing. You can enroll part-time or take classes in the evening for ultimate convenience. Over half of community college students attend classes part-time, according to the US News & World Report.
  • They are known for their high transfer rates. Many schools have established partnerships with four-year universities and colleges, making it easier to transfer credits seamlessly. SUNY Broome Community College and Binghamton University have a joint program called the Binghamton Advantage Program (BAP), where students can live on the university’s campus while earning credits at the community college. In one to two years, students can transfer to Binghamton University full-time.
  • They focus on staying up-to-date with the latest economic and technological trends. As a result, they offer degrees and certificate programs in STEM fields and other rapidly-growing industries. Many colleges partner with businesses and organizations to train the workforce and keep up with the latest trends in the labor market.

Requirements for Community College

At the beginning of this post, we noted that most colleges have open admissions policies. In this section, we will delve into what that entails and how it links to the general admissions criteria.

Essentially, open admission entails a high school diploma or GED as the primary requirement for enrollment. Additionally, entrance into the school is not competitive, with prospective scholars merely having to complete and submit their application, along with validated proof of their high school diploma or GED.

However, certain programs within the college may stipulate more stringent or additional admission steps. For instance, the nursing program at Tompkins Cortland Community College has a selective admissions process as there are a limited number of available spots. To be considered, applicants must submit personal statements, references and provide their GPA and grades in math and science. The process may also entail an interview or entrance exam. The average GPA for admitted students is 3.4, highlighting the competitive nature of the nursing program relative to the broader community college admission process.

Other mandatory requirements may exist. Contrary to common perception, some community colleges might necessitate students to provide SAT or ACT scores. Moreover, international students must present evidence of a VISA or green card.

Extraneous factors can also influence the admission process. For instance, scholars transferring from a four-year college with a GPA below 2.0 may face hurdles, as a 2.0 is the minimum transfer GPA for many community colleges. Additionally, a surge in the number of applicants may prompt a community college to tighten its admission process, given it cannot accommodate all applicants for a given year.

Overall, community college serves as a viable academic pathway for many students due to its relatively flexible admission criteria, lower tuition fees, and potential for favorable employment prospects.



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