In compiling your wish list for the perfect college, you decide your priorities include small class sizes, teachers with actual experience in their fields, and the best chance for a high-paying job once you’ve earned your degree. Although your first concern might be how you could possibly afford such an education, you really have nothing to be worried about. The type of school you have just described is not an elite research university. It’s your local community college. Ask anyone who has ever tried to follow a lecture from a 22-year-old teaching assistant in a 400-person auditorium, and they will be able to give you many reasons why you might want to take a look at two year colleges.
It starts in the classroom. Community colleges emphasize intimate learning environments over assembly-line instruction. Community college classes focus on putting knowledge into practice, as opposed to letting students guess the right answer on a multiple-choice quiz. Furthermore, teachers at community colleges are charged with connecting with students rather than putting half their time into research and publishing, which often requires putting a student assistant in charge of the actual teaching. More importantly, instructors are hired directly from the field they teach, giving them the ability to share with you their relevant real-life experience, as well as the ability to help you connect directly with potential employers.
It continues on campus. These schools are called “community” colleges for a reason. At few other institutions of higher education will you be treated so much like a big fish in a small pond as at the community college, where even the college president is often on a first-name basis with many of the students. And while you won’t find massive homecoming ceremonies or elaborate pledge weeks, that doesn’t mean community college life is lacking in excitement. Two year colleges have athletic teams, student organizations, and student governance just like any other school, only on a much more manageable scale. Quality of experience is emphasized over quantity of faces in the crowd.
It ends with the bottom line. Now more than 8 million strong, the growing number of community college enrollees demonstrates that students increasingly demand that they get what they pay for. Only in the two year system of higher education, you actually get more. Community college tuition nationwide averages less than $3,000 per year, a fraction of what you would pay at a university. But sticker cost doesn’t tell the whole story. Because two year schools emphasize experiential learning, you will more easily land a job should you decide to put off a baccalaureate degree. In fact, many community college degree programs, such as nursing and computer science, have placement rates approaching 100 percent each and every year.
For these reasons, even if your goal is to earn a bachelor’s degree, you owe it to yourself to at least visit your local community college and find out about entrance requirements and transfer options. It might just be the wisest choice you ever make.