What is a Community College in the USA? – See What You Need to Know.
What is a Community College in the USA: The American education system offers many choices for higher education to international scholars. There are Communities College, universities, and more. Numerous international students are not familiar with the American education system and therefore, may not understand what a community college is.
In this article, we are going to focus on what you need to know about a community college in the USA.
What is a Community College in the USA?
Community college, at times called a junior college, is a two-year school that offers reasonably priced higher education as a pathway to a four-year degree. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, there are 1,167 community colleges in the United States.
Finishing a 2-year degree at a community college is called an associate’s degree.
The advantages of attending a community college are that students can save money by attending a community college for two years and then transfer to a 4-year university where they will complete their degree.
Many community colleges are now offering select bachelor’s degrees in addition to associate’s degrees. Because of this many community colleges have changed their names removing ‘community’ and calling themselves a ‘college’ due to offering a 4-year degree program.
The first step to studying in the United States is researching your options to finding a college that best fits your needs.
Community colleges offer two-year programs leading to the Associate of Arts (AA) or Associate of Science (AS) degree. These colleges also have technical and vocational programs with close links to secondary schools, community groups, and employers in the local community.
Undergraduate students studying at community colleges can earn academic credit towards a bachelor’s degree. Earning academic credit at a community college, which is usually less expensive, can help lower the overall cost of a bachelor’s degree. Community colleges may also have a more flexible admissions process.
Community colleges often lead the United States in educating students in cutting-edge fields such as biomedical technology, robotics, laser optics, internet and computer technologies, and geographic information systems. The small size of classes at community colleges can be highly beneficial for international students as they adjust to the pace of U.S. academic life and practice their English-language skills.
Community colleges offer a variety of support services and cross-cultural programs, including tutoring, advising, career planning, study skills, and counseling many designed specifically for international students.
Advantages of Community Colleges
Community colleges emphasize the needs of local students and the local job market. Students who could not afford campus or off-site housing at a four-year college, or for other reasons cannot relocate, can attend courses while staying in their local community.
1. Although an associate degree is typically less financially lucrative in the long term than a bachelor’s degree, it can still provide a respectable income at much less cost in time, tuition, student loans, and lost earnings, along with the option of upgrading to a bachelor’s degree at a later time.
Even ten years after graduation, there are many people with certificates and associate degrees in fields where they earn more money than the average B.A. holder. In spite of persistently high unemployment, there is still a demand for some skilled trades that do not require a bachelor’s degree, such as paralegals, mechanics, electricians, and technicians.
2. Community college professors may be solely dedicated to teaching, and classes may be small. In comparison, a large university college course may be taught to 300+ students by a teaching assistant, while the professor attends to research duties.
Outside of those teaching in the technical and vocational fields, most instructors at community colleges have master’s degrees and many hold doctoral degrees. In addition, community college professors can help students achieve their goals, work more closely with them, and offer them support, while at four-year colleges and universities, a professor is also often expected to conduct academic research, and in some cases, to mentor graduate students.
3. A number of community colleges have athletic programs; certain colleges also serve as incubators for college athletes, particularly in baseball, basketball, and football. A talented player who would not meet the academic or athletic standards of a major college program may be able to play for two years in junior college, establishing an academic record in the process, and then transfer to the major college.
Disadvantages of Community Colleges
1. Transferring credit can sometimes be a problem, as each four-year college has its own requirements for enrollment. However, many four-year colleges have made arrangements, known as articulation agreements, allowing associate degrees to qualify for transfer, some cases allowing the student to complete the bachelor’s degree via distance learning from the community college campus.
Some states have passed rules whereby certain associate degrees in a field will automatically transfer to state universities as the core curriculum for specified bachelor’s degrees. Minnesota, Alabama, and Oregon have created a statewide “transfer curriculum” allowing credits to be transferred to any other public university and almost all of the private colleges.
2. While community colleges are open enrollment institutions, meaning they accept and enroll all prospective students as long as fees are paid and the student enrolls in classes, this open-door policy is often seen as a revolving door, with many students, nearly 2/3 not completing their education.
3. There is a historic connotation that community colleges and for-profit colleges are often considered schools of last resort, because of their open-admissions policies, which may reflect poorly upon students who were unable to receive admission to a college offering a wider variety of degree programs. Their open-admissions policies have been the subject of sarcastic humor in popular media.
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