Community college has always been represented by different sides of an argument. It has been said that community college really enforces the word community: after all, said college is for a specific community with a specific purpose. This being said, the community college can create a small togetherness in the academic world: a closer bond and tighter ties between students, faculty, and members of the community. Some may consider this to be a positive benefit that community colleges hold over larger universities. However, some see this community aspect as crippling to students involved as most of them live at home and work jobs they have held before. This being said, there is always a flip side to every story. However, through lower tuition, a unique take on college, and the freedom to explore different options, and the academic advancements available, community college benefits its students in the long run.
Community college is known to be an attractive option, so to speak, in that the tuition cost is incredibly less than an average university would cost. With lower tuition costs, undecided students can attend a community college, exploring and enrolling in different classes without having a major financial strain on their wallet. An average semester at Northern Illinois University totals to be around four thousand dollars, according to the school’s tuition estimator online, while the same number of courses at Kishwaukee comes out to about fifteen hundred dollars (“Tuition Estimator”). This difference is significant if one goes to community college the first few years of college. The money saved can lessen the heavy debt that many students find themselves in after time in college.
Community college tends to be a “unique take” on higher education. As said before, at a community college students can dabble in various programs and classes that are completely unrelated to find out what one is really looking for in their college experience. This unique take is much more than trying out different classes though. The fact that so many different programs are offered for students to try is truly astounding. This unique take goes even farther as students can not only dabble in various programs to find the perfect fit, but they can do so close to home. Most students that attend community college do tend to live at home and keep jobs they have previously held. This being said, students can save money on housing - - no dorm fees or moving expenses required. With the economy in a less-than-perfect state, it can be rewarding to not move away and have to find a new job in a different town or even state. With a community college, many of its attendees keep their old jobs and in turn are able to earn more money over time through advances or even promotions while at home. Keeping these opportunities helps keeps students involved in their community in a positive light, not only through their schools, but their neighborhoods and places of employment. Many students who transfer to a university right after high school tend to have trouble finding a job and most spend the first year or so competing with other new students on campus for the few jobs available. Community college is unique in that students can remain in, and help improve upon, the community in which they grew up in.
Considering many students come to college unsure of what to do with their future, community colleges tend to offer various classes and unique programs that can expand their options and harbor lifelong passions. Devon, a student at Kishwaukee College is a prime example of how this works. He started the school with the intention of being pre-medicine and enrolled in one of Kishwaukee’s theater classes for a little culture and fun, so to speak. A year later and three acting classes later, Devon is now a theater major and planning to transfer to a university after Kishwaukee to continue to pursue his acting endeavors. At a larger university and with the intent of studying pre-medicine, Devon never would have stepped into an acting classroom. Perhaps he would not have had the time in his schedule, extra tuition to pay the higher cost, or even the background in theater to do so. However, at his community college he was able to find a low-cost, flexible introduction to theater course and simply try it out. In the end he was able to truly discover his passion and what he wanted to stick with. Considering he made the decision so early at his community college, it also saved him funds from not taking classes that had nothing to do with his new major. By simply enrolling in a class for fun, Devon now has a focused career path that he can completely and intimately pursue.
Approximately fifty percent of university students started their college career at a local community college, and these students have proved to be academically advanced over students who attended a university from day one (“Mythbusters”). Sara Turner, a United States government and Psychology teacher at Sycamore High School is almost the perfect textbook example of this. She attended community college, and it took her longer than the average two years to complete it. Afterwards, she transferred to a four-year school and graduated in the top ten of her class. “Not top ten percent, the TOP TEN as in the number between nine and eleven; and I went on to get a master's with highest honors,” Turner can now proudly boast today. Community college can be a great stepping stone for all attendees. With the “open-door policy” that community colleges enforce, all students are accepted, and not just in the academic sense. Students from all backgrounds, races, religions, wealth, and academic successes can all attend a community college. This diversity through this policy provides equal opportunities for all students enrolled, and they can all go on to their own successful futures. Since the application process does not discriminate like some may at a university, all students are provided with the academic advancement opportunities, and the students must simply work with them. This being said, community college is also a great bridge between high school and a university. Students that did not go to the best high school, or did not put in the best amount of effort in high school can use community college to boost a number of things: their GPA, their academic stamina in general, as well as building or restoring their name in their own local community. That being said, community college is not a glorified high school. While students are able to redeem themselves in a sense at community college, it is not necessarily giving them a second chance to be something they were not in high school. On the contrary, college is a time to experiment with who one is and who they want to be. As stated before, this can be done at home at a community college at a lower cost and in a more comfortable environment. However, just because one can build themselves back up in community college before they attempt to transfer does not mean they are reliving or by any means re-glorifying their senior year of high school. Community colleges only feel like high school if “a student treats it that way” (Mythbusters.) and when a student finds them at the place they want to be – socially, financially, and academically – they can smoothly transfer to a university after their work is complete at a community college.
Community colleges are truly what the American education system should be all about. Affordable, close-to-home, and full of opportunities; that in itself is the epitome of any community college. John E. Roueche, a professor of higher education at the University of Texas at Austin and director of the school's community college leadership program, believes that community colleges only further express the image of the American Dream;
“They provide an opportunity for people to become all that they are capable of becoming,” Roueche says. “If you go to a community college and do well, you can get a good job or transfer to a university and then go on to graduate school. Community colleges are society's way of saying that there are no limits to what you might become.” Playing on the theme of the American Dream, community colleges have also been nicknamed ‘Democracy’s Colleges’ and ‘People’s Colleges’ due to their open-door policy of accepting all. ‘(“Community Colleges”). This thought that everyone deserves a higher education is a rewarding experience, and at a fraction of the expected university cost.
At an affordable price, community college gives students of all ages, backgrounds and walks of life the same opportunity to improve oneself through education, life and experience. The benefits of community college are not only currently relevant in a tanking economy and one’s wallet, but for many years to come when students realize they became everything they wanted to due to the fact that they were afforded the opportunities to improve, learn and grow at their local community college. Community colleges tend to benefit students long after they have closed the door only to open another.
Community Colleges: Should They Offer Four Year Degrees 10.15 (200). CQ Researcher. Web. 4 May 2010.
"Community College Graduate." E-mail interview. 8 Apr. 2010.
"Mythbusters." Kishwaukeecollege.edu. Kishwaukee College. Web. 8 Apr. 2010.
"Theater Major." Personal interview. 15 Apr. 2010.
“Tuition Estimator.” Web. 1 May 2010.