The traditional image of the college experience features freshmen showing up for orientation in August and that same group of students graduating together four years later. Most students would prefer to do college this way because of the simplicity of remaining in one school and the comfort of sharing the adventure with the same set of friends. But preferences aside, there are compelling reasons for you to consider earning an Associate’s degree from a community college and then transferring to a four-year college for your Bachelor’s degree.
Update on Community Colleges
Community colleges are no longer viewed as a last resort for those who didn’t get into a four-year school. Whether you’re looking for a less expensive alternative, a better learning environment, an opportunity to explore different subjects, or a school that’s within commuting distance, students who attend community colleges realize many benefits.
Community colleges are public institutions operated by a county or city. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, more than 13 million students, or nearly half of all undergraduates in the U.S., attend a community college. There are more than 1,700 community colleges granting Associate’s degrees.
In the past, community colleges were considered to be less academically rigorous than four-year colleges. But much has changed: Academic standards at community colleges have improved, as have the credentials of faculty. Most community colleges now require that faculty have a Master’s degree or, more often, a Ph.D. in their fields.
Community colleges don’t receive research grants, the lifeblood of research universities. In universities, professors are hired mainly for their qualifications to conduct advanced research, so the time they have available for teaching is limited. This results in large class sizes for entry-level courses and instructors who often are only graduate students. At community colleges, the sole focus of professors is teaching. Because classes are small, teachers provide students with more personal attention and can adopt more innovative teaching techniques.
Community College Students are Valued
Many high-achieving community college students assume they won’t be accepted as transfers
to selective four-year institutions, so they don’t even apply. In fact, transfers from community colleges comprise 7% of the upperclassmen in the 100 most selective colleges in the country, according to a report by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, and this percentage is growing.
To encourage more applicants from community colleges, many four-year schools now actively seek them out. College administrators welcome them for adding diversity to the student body, enhancing campus culture, and replacing students who dropped out in their first two years. These motives are supplemented by data showing that community college students who transfer to four-year institutions graduate at a higher rate than incoming freshmen or transfers from four-year colleges. And the students admitted aren’t just a few superstars. In a recent year, 84% of the nation’s community colleges transferred at least one graduate to the 100 most selective four-year institutions, according to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
Reasons to Go to Community College First
For those who seek a Bachelor’s degree, there are several reasons why you should consider going from high school to a community college and then to a four-year college for your Bachelor’s degree.
1. Financial Advantages: The average cost of annual tuition and fees at four-year institutions in the 2018-2019 school year was $35,676 at private colleges, $9,716 for in-state residents at public colleges, and $21,629 for out-of-state students at public colleges, according to data from U.S. News & World Report. Room and board expenses add to these amounts. Student debt in the U.S. now exceeds $1.5 trillion, and it’s obvious that college debt can become a crushing burden on students. In comparison, community colleges cost $3,660 on average per year.
One reason for lower tuition at community college is that they’re more utilitarian. There’s less infrastructure and fewer extracurricular programs. The very amenities that make students prefer four-year colleges also increase overhead and, hence, increase tuition. There’s another cost-saving incentive in that students who attend community college can live at home and commute to their campus.
2. Improved Academic Credentials: There are high school students who, for a variety of reasons, don’t perform at the academic level required for admission to the colleges they aspire to attend. The best way for them to demonstrate their ability to succeed at that level is to complete an Associate’s degree program with an excellent academic record.
3. Transfer of Credits: A number of states have credit transfer agreements (articulation agreements) between community colleges and the public university system. These agreements enable students to take community college courses that satisfy core requirements at the four-year institutions. After completing their Associate’s degree, students can transfer to a four-year state institution with all credits intact.
4. Support Services: Community colleges offer services that suit their students, such as improving study skills, remedial math and writing classes, academic advising, tutoring, and admissions counseling.
Klaar College Consulting takes an approach to admissions counseling that’s custom-fitted to you as an individual, and to your circumstances. After learning about you, we may advise you that you would benefit from attending a community college. If you do so, we’ll assist you in transferring to a four-year college upon graduation — one that suits your needs, preferences, and goals. With our strategic guidance and expert assistance, you’ll raise your competitive edge as a transfer applicant.