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Caroline ReederIn Praise of the Community College

by Caroline Reeder

If you are thinking of returning to school, a community college may be just the place for you. Beginning college later in life can be overwhelming, especially at a large university. The community college offers a more personalized college experience with smaller classes and professors who often know you by name. No longer the “college of last resort,” community colleges offer an academically rigorous curriculum that prepares you for continued studies at a four-year university or entering the workforce.

Advantages of Community Colleges

Many successful people got their start at community colleges, including celebrities like actor Tom Hanks and comedian Billy Crystal. Even some of your
professors may be proud community college graduates. Community colleges have several advantages over four-year universities, especially for returning or older-than-average students. These include:

An Open Door Policy. Community colleges are very forgiving. Regardless of your previous school performance, most community colleges will admit you as long as you have a high school diploma or GED. Once you get there, it is entirely up to you to do the work required to remain a student in good standing. Graduation from a community college also opens the door to admission at most state universities. Many community colleges and universities have “articulation agreements” through which your admission and ability to transfer credits are almost guaranteed.

Convenience. Community colleges are attended by people of very diverse backgrounds and have an especially high concentration of working adults. Because of this, they offer classes during a variety of times including early morning, late afternoon, evenings and weekends. No matter what your job situation is, you should be able to find classes that accommodate your schedule and still allow you to lead a relatively normal life.

Class Size. Community colleges generally have smaller class sizes than universities, which frequently offer freshman and sophomore classes in massive auditoriums. Rather than being a speck in a sea of faces or a random name on a roster, your professor may know you by name. You will also have a much easier time getting to know your classmates. You may not have returned to college for the camaraderie but a smile from a classmate when you’re having a tough time can really help.

Cost. Tuition at community colleges is considerably less than tuition at four-year universities. For the cost of taking one class at a university, you can take an average of three classes at a community college. Additionally, you may qualify for financial aid, student loans or scholarships. If you are working toward a bachelor’s degree, you can save a considerable amount of money by completing your first two years of coursework at a community college.

Success. Celebrities aren’t the only successful people to have gotten their start at community colleges. Notable Alumni include leaders in business, education, government, politics, sports, the arts, and even space exploration, are community college graduates. In Florida, almost 75 percent of community college graduates continue their education at four-year institutions.

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