Saving money on a college education

Community College Advantages

by Debra Karplus

Your teen is considering college choices or maybe you are the one in the family who would like to go back to school to increase your earning potential or simply to learn for the sake of learning. You've passed by the community college not far from your home many times. But, it wasn't until recently that the idea of a two-year college came to mind. Some are called junior college and others are known as technical schools. There are approximately 1200 accredited two-year colleges in the United States. Depending on your career plans and the possibility of transferring to a four-year university, community college has many beneficial features to offer. It's a terrific way to save money on a college education.

There are a wide variety of careers that require only a two-year or associate's degree with ample job opportunities, such as law enforcement, criminal justice, fire service, and computer technology. And the good news is that there will always be a need for these professions.

Additionally, numerous lucrative careers in health care can be pursued, start to finish, at a community college. Can you remember a time when there wasn't a nursing shortage? Community college is an excellent place to become a registered nurse (RN). Occupational therapy (OTA) and physical therapy assistants (PTA) study at a two-year college for exciting jobs in rehabilitation. Surgical technology, radiology, and respiratory therapy programs at community college also train for essential hospital jobs. If your desire is to work in a dental clinic, dental hygiene programs at community college are an excellent career choice. And be sure to consider a program in emergency medical technology (EMT) or an associate's degree in veterinary technology. These are only a few of the degrees offered at a community college. Get on the website of a community college near you to learn more.

Another reason to choose community college is that it can be a less expensive option for completing basic classes, such as Introduction to Psychology 101, before transferring to a four-year university. Some universities and community colleges even allow for concurrent enrollment. But, you definitely want to make sure that the classes you choose at community college will in fact be transferable to the four-year university that you plan to attend.

People who attend community college typically choose a school that is near home. This gives a student the option of living at home, which saves money, or finding a place to rent on or near the campus.

Community colleges tend to have a more nurturing, supportive environment and are a great transition from high school to a university. Classes tend to be smaller and instructors are often more accessible and can provide more attention to you than they might be at the four-year university. Community college instructors are generally teaching because they want to teach, opposed to some university professors who may be more concerned with doing research and publishing their studies than they are with teaching students. "Publish or perish" is the mantra they live by.

For the non-traditional student, community college has many advantages. Classes are often held in the evenings and on Saturdays and a growing number of courses are offered online. If you have a job or a family or other important responsibilities, then community college is a very accommodating option.

If community college is so wonderful, then why doesn't everyone start college at a community college?

Community colleges have many great features but also have a few things lacking. If you are seeking a bachelor's or advanced degree, it is simply not available at a two-year college. And if you are planning to transfer to a university, it is essential that you absolutely know for sure that your courses are transferable. It is your responsibility to check with the university, not the community college, to find out which community college classes are transferable. You may be disappointed to find that many classes you had hoped to register for are not transferable.

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Because of its smaller size, some other things are missing that you can typically find at the larger universities. One obvious shortcoming is that there are fewer courses offered both in number of courses and in number of times a certain class is offered. Also because of its size, there are fewer campus resources, such as on-campus housing, dormitories, or fraternities and sororities. Additionally, the library is likely to be much smaller. And finally, because of its large number of part-time and non-traditional students, there may be less of a college atmosphere and less student involvement.

But, it is important to keep your mind open to the possibility of attending community college. It seems that its many advantages far outweigh its disadvantages. A two-year college may be a perfect fit for one's specific college and career plans.

Reviewed October 2017

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