Community Colleges: Myth vs. Reality


There are many misconceptions about community colleges. The information provided below will set the record straight.

I shouldn't go to a community college unless I want a vo-tech career.

Many people complete general education requirements at a community college before transferring to a traditional four-year college or university. One driving force behind the creation of community colleges was to provide an inexpensive way to complete a college program.

Nobody who is anybody goes to community college.

Many people who've risen to the top of their professions studied at community colleges. The following are just a few examples:

  • Maxwell Taylor, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • James Sinegal, CEO of Costco
  • Sam Shepard, famous playwright
  • Robert Moses, famous choreographer
  • Jim Lehrer, news anchor
  • Jeanne Kirkpatrick, former United Nations (UN) ambassador
  • Joyce Luther Kennard, California Supreme Court justice
  • Eileen Collins, NASA astronaut
  • Gwendolyn Brooks, Pulitzer prize-winning poet

Community college is just high school with ashtrays.

This is a great misconception. Community colleges offer college level courses, requiring the same preparation to successfully complete courses required at traditional colleges and universities. The open enrollment policies of community colleges do not negatively affect the quality of courses.

Community college is for older students and students who work full time.

Many students right out of high school and younger adults attend community colleges. Working professionals and older adults frequently attend community colleges because classes are often offered at convenient times, such as nights and weekends. Younger students often have full-time jobs, so they also attend night and weekend classes.

I can't get financial aid if I go to community college.

Although it's not expensive to attend a community college, students can still qualify for financial aid. Any student enrolled in an accredited college can apply for Federal Pell Grants. Students enrolled part-time can also qualify for partial grants.

Transferring from community college to a four-year college is too tough.

Many support services exist to assist students transferring to four-year institutions. However, students should take the initiative when planning their education. They can work with academic advisors when planning their education and making preparations to transfer to a new school. Community college students struggling with classes or trying to improve their grades can consult with tutors available on campus.

Four-year colleges don't accept community college credits.

Most community colleges have articulation agreements with other local colleges and universities. These agreements detail which earned credits completed at a community college can be transferred to specific schools. Students intending to transfer should carefully review these agreements, but in most cases, earned credits can be transferred.

If you plan on attending a four-year college after completing your associate's degree, you'll want to make sure you attend a community college that is regionally accredited. Most major colleges and universities will only accept transfer credits from community colleges that are regionally accredited. Earning an associate's degree from a nationally accredited community college will make it difficult to transfer to a regionally accredited institution – which includes most 4-year colleges and universities.

I'll never survive a four-year college after attending a community college.

According to research, students who begin at community colleges and then transfer to traditional colleges earn better or similar grades as students who begin at these institutions right after high school. Transferring students often struggle their first semester after transferring, but this is true for students right out of high school as well. Student grades usually improve after the first semester at a new school.

Community college students drop out.

Although some research indicates that nearly 50 percent of community college students drop out soon after enrolling, students transferring to other schools is not omitted from this percentage. A just released government report states that more community college students are now completing educational programs than in the past.

Community colleges are all the same.

Every community college within the United States is not similar. Each school has unique staff members, different types of student support services, and offers different classes. It would be very difficult for each school to be exactly the same since there are more than 1,200 community colleges nationwide.



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