Did your student graduate from high school last spring, and has not firmed up plans for the coming months? Might they be more interested in pursuing a trade or skills to prepare for the workforce? Consider exploring opportunities at your local community college! While you think that it is too late to explore this option, it may not be.
Community colleges are commonly 2-year colleges that grant associate degrees or vocational certificates and/or licenses and prepare students for eventual transfer to a 4-year college or university or employment in entry-level jobs. In 2019, 7.7 million students enrolled in community college, which is about 35% of all undergraduates. About 44% of all black undergrads were enrolled in community colleges that year. For many students, community college may be a good fit after high school, and here’s why:
· More affordable tuition costs. Tuition costs at community colleges are generally significantly less than public and private 4-year colleges and universities. The tuition may be determined based on your status as county, state, or out-of-state resident. For instance, a year’s tuition for a full-time student at Montgomery College in Montgomery County, Maryland runs as high as $7,000 for county residents, $13,000 for Maryland residents, and $18,000 for out-of-state residents. By comparison, the average cost of tuition and fees for a private college is $38,000, and at public colleges, $10,000 for in-state and $23,000 for out-of-state students. For those students who must take out loans to cover gaps in tuition, their student loan debt will certainly be less.
· Small classe size. Many 4-year colleges will have lecture classes in large auditoriums to accommodate the hundreds of students in attendance. This is especially true for freshman-level courses. However, most community colleges have a lower teacher/student ratio, as compared to four-year colleges and universities. This results in smaller class sizes for even freshman courses. In fact, some courses may have a maximum enrollment to ensure a small class setting. This can benefit students who, right after high school, prefer a smaller environment and possibly greater access to professors/instructors who may have the time and space to take a greater interest in their learning.
· Affords greater academic flexibility. Community colleges target not only recent college graduates, but also adult learners, individuals with families, and persons with full-time employment. That said, community colleges are designed to accommodate various types of students and generally affords greater academic flexibility in terms of class scheduling and possibly even homework assignments. Community colleges also offer remedial and non-credit courses that may benefit students who have educational gaps that they want to fill with additional coursework.
· Training to get your student into the workforce. Community colleges provide a range of training programs aimed at students who seek entry into the labor market or want to improve their skills for a better job. These include occupational certificates that are recognized by industry and aimed at employment or job advancement, such as Cisco or Google IT certifications. See Strengthening Community College Workforce Training (ed.gov). They also offer training for licensure in such areas as project management, internal auditing, food management, income tax preparer, trade licenses and many others. In other words, community colleges offer programs and certifications that can get your student in the workforce in a trade or specialty area of their choosing.
· Doesn’t require SAT or ACT for admission. Community colleges generally do not require submission of an SAT or ACT score for admission, and registration fees are usually lower compared to applying to a four-year college or university. Assuming that other pre-requisites are met (for example, high school diploma or GED), your student can expect to be able to register. There may be testing assessments or prerequisites required for certain classes that your student intends to take. You should explore that when reviewing options at your student’s community college of choice.
· Diversity. Community colleges are very diverse. According to the American Association of Community Colleges (Fast Facts (nche.edu)), nationwide, community colleges comprise
o 27% Hispanics
o 12% black
o 29% First generation students
o 15% single parents
o 8% non-US citizens
o 4% veterans
o 20% students with disabilities
· Community Colleges may admit students up until the start of classes. If your student may be interested in community college, but think it is too late for the fall? Well, maybe not! Many community colleges will admit students up until the start of classes. Your student may still have time to explore options at their local community college if they start now!
If your student wants to explore community college, here are some quick major tips to help them choose the right school:
· Long term goals. Think about long term goals. Your student’s goals could be to become trained in a trade or other profession, or to take remedial courses to fill in educational gaps from high school. Either way, this will frame your student’s academic objectives and help make sure that any community college your student considers has the program and/or courses that will propel them to their academic and professional goals.
· Partnership with 4-year colleges/universities. Find out whether your community college partners with a 4-year college or university in the event your student wants to transfer. Many community colleges now partner with the state college or university to accept local transfer students who otherwise fulfill the requirements for admission. For students who intend to transfer, this partnership may help streamline the process and help guarantee that the student’s community college credits will transfer to the 4-year state college or university, thus saving time and money towards a bachelor’s degree.
· Transfer success. Assess the community college’s transfer success rate. In the event your student wants to transfer, they will want to be sure that the community college has a track record of adequately preparing students who seek admission and transfer of their credits to a 4-year college.
Community college can be an exciting next chapter after high school.