Community Colleges Now Outperforming
4-year Colleges and Universities
Many people still hold the preconception that community colleges are generally inferior to universities. Nowadays, this just isn't the case. It turns out, that a growing number of community colleges actually outperform universities in several important ways.
Quality of Education
The idea that community colleges offer second-rate education taught by under-qualified professors is, frankly, outdated. The truth is, community college professors typically hold a master's or doctorate degree in their field--just like their university counterparts--and classes demonstrate the same degree of academic rigor and difficulty as those at larger 4-year institutions.
In fact, community colleges often offer students a superior teaching experience. This is because research isn't conducted at community colleges, so the faculty has more time and energy to devote towards quality instruction. At large universities, the opposite is often the case: professors are more focused on research, and leave the classroom instruction to graduate students.
In addition, most community colleges are career focused, where universities offer a broader "more rounded" liberal arts education. Students who attend community colleges take courses that are designed to equip students with a specific skill set, so they'll be prepared to enter the job market upon graduation. Unfortunately, many students who attend four-year universities are illprepared to enter the job market and lack the skills necessary to provide meaningful results right out of school.
Lower Student-to-Teacher Ratio
At universities, many classes are taught in rooms which feel like large amphitheaters with stadium seating, and professors lecture to several hundred students at once. It's not surprising, then, that students in such classes receive almost no individualized attention, and are never able to establish a personal rapport with their professor.
Some of the most significant benefits of a community college education are the small class sizes and the low student-to-teacher ratio. Students in community colleges are able to interact with their professor much more easily than university students. They can ask questions, receive individualized feedback, and get personal support in their studies to a degree which simply isn't possible in a massive university lecture class.
The majority of college students need to work at least a part-time job in addition to their studies. This can be a real scheduling crunch, and is a major source of stress and anxiety for students. Community colleges are a great option for working students, because they generally offer many more evening classes than four-year universities do. Community colleges also tend to have more time slots available for each class, which gives working students much more flexibility when planning their schedules. Also, in many community colleges, class attendance is not always required, unlike the majority of universities.
Online education and distance education programs are also an option for students looking for maximum flexibility in earning a degree. A growing number of community colleges are offering various distance education and online learning options for their students.
Another assumption held by many people is that the social scenes at community colleges aren't as fun as the social scenes at universities. Once again, this is a misconception. Your college experience--be it at a 4-year university or a community college--is what you make it. There are plenty of opportunities to become involved in student clubs and organizations, study groups, and so on, but you'll need to put yourself out there and get involved. Do your research, surf your school's website, and find out what organizations, clubs, and groups exist at your community college. If you don't find a group that you feel drawn to, you can start your own (just like at a university). Students who do this, and make an effort to get involved on campus, are able to have a rich social experience at a community college just as well as at a 4-year institution.
It always has been, and continues to be the case, that community colleges are typically far less expensive to attend than four-year colleges and universities. In the past, attending an expensive university was justified in that you could expect to receive a better education and a better job in exchange for paying higher tuition. The value proposition is changing. Many university students, upon graduation, now find themselves encumbered with debt and student loans with no better job prospects than students who earned a degree or technical certification at a community college. For those that don't want to mortgage their future to prepare for a career, a community college is becoming a much more attractive opportunity. With growing costs of higher education, living expenses, books, tuition, and a tightening job market, a large number of career-oriented students are opting to prepare for the future by attending a community college.
A Great Way to Start
Enrolling in a university is a big commitment, usually requiring a lot of money and a move to a new location. Many prospective students are unsure about their choice of major, about their educational goals, or about their career path. For these unsure students, a big move to a distant campus can seem unrealistic, daunting, or just plain unreasonable. Community colleges offer a great way for these students to get started on the path to higher education and to the benefits it offers. They can start their studies while staying in their home community, and for a much lower cost.
Community colleges are a great educational option, offering quality instruction from qualified faculty, flexible scheduling for even the busiest of students, convenience, and a low price tag.
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