Inside: There are many hidden benefits to community college besides low cost.
When considering the benefits of attending a community college, we immediately think about the financial aspect.
Sure, the savings when attending community college versus some four-year programs can be staggering. Aside from being (mostly) publicly funded, the #1 reason community college is so affordable is low overhead. That means you often don’t get the fancy dorm rooms, sports teams, or giant campuses that some students desire as part of their overall college experience, but it also means avoiding immense student loans and navigating complex financial aid packages.
But there are many other advantages to think about beyond lower costs, and after teaching at a community college, I witnessed these benefits first-hand.
Community colleges are not for students who can’t cut it
Many people are surprised that over 40% of U.S. undergraduates — roughly 7.7 million students — attend community colleges. Those figures don’t capture the millions of additional non-degree students taking a course or two or pursuing a certificate.
Making the choice to attend your local community college rather than a four-year institution is a big decision, and unfortunately, as a society, we’re still shedding the stigma surrounding choosing one.
Many people still equate high quality with high price when it comes to higher education, so they look down on earning an associate degree at a community college. Or, they think community colleges are filled with unmotivated or underprepared students.
But as someone who taught first-year composition, I can tell you that I saw so much grit, character, and resilience in my students. Further, the environment these students were in was nothing shy of supportive.
So, ultimately, choosing a community college might be a decision your child will appreciate for several years to come.
10 Hidden Benefits of Community College
After teaching for a few weeks at a community college, I quickly realized how close-knit the community is both on and off campus. Sure, the education takes place in the brick-and-mortar building, but it trickles throughout the broader community because everyone lives nearby. With every student, employee and faculty member commuting to and from the same campus and living nearby, everyone is invested in bettering the community as a whole.
Community colleges offer immense help and encouragement to their students. Students can get help from tutors, writing centers, utilizing professors’ office hours, and more. The faculty and all support systems are set in place for the community college student to succeed.
Additionally, most community colleges have smaller class sizes which means more one-on-one time with instructors.
There’s an indescribable realness on the campuses of community colleges. Maybe it’s because they lack the pressure of the prestige a four-year college often holds—I’m not sure.
But the fact that almost everyone, yes, even the professors, are humble at community colleges, makes it that much easier for students to gain the help and guidance they need. This, in effect, makes the college transition from high school so much smoother.
Many community colleges offer a wide array of career-focused courses and degree programs, including vocational training, STEM education, and pre-professional classes. Additionally, most include professional certification programs where students can gain expertise in a shorter time than traditional four-year degrees or start their careers earlier. An added bonus is many junior colleges are well connected with local industries and businesses to promote job placement, so students can enter the workforce earlier and more prepared.
In a community college, many classes are offered more than during a typical academic schedule, such as evenings, weekends, or even online. Because of the flexibility and overall cost savings, your student doesn’t have to acquire their degree in two years, which takes off some of the pressure.
Instead, they can take their time and figure out their life’s path at their own pace. If your student doesn’t know what they want to pursue as a career choice immediately after graduation (which is often the case), you won’t be spending unnecessary money. It is an excellent opportunity to complete general education requirements while managing other responsibilities (or taking some time off to pursue other passions.)
Ability to Work
Many students need to work while earning their degrees. At many community colleges, instructors can help students find a job directly related to their future line of work. For example, if your child wants to go into nursing, they could be a nurse’s aide at a local hospital or work at a local restaurant while attending culinary classes. This real-life work experience will not only set your child ahead of the competition, but it will give them the experience they need to choose if that career path is truly for them.
Qualified & Caring Educators
One of the biggest fallacies regarding community colleges is that the faculty is not as high of a caliber as a four-year school. Instructors at the community college level almost always have graduate degrees in their academic subject area or have extensive experience in the field.
One of the hidden benefits of community college instructors is they are often well connected in their community. We have heard of so many stories of how faculty members have placed their students in internships and other employment situations that are life-changing to their students.
They’re also encouraging and compassionate to their studentslong after they leave their classrooms, and often act as professional mentors to help them achieve their goals. It may surprise you to find out that many professors prefer teaching at the community college level because the students are more eager and invested in learning, and they feel their impact is greater.
Creating Different Path Options
One of the greatest aspects of community colleges is that it sets students up to take different paths in life. The current state of college admissions is broken, and parents need to encourage their kids to take the best path for their unique needs. Community college offers a less-pressure environment for your student to begin their post-high school journey.
It may involve studying a trade, exploring various career options, or simply completing coursework to help them find a job that suits their current situation. For example, some students attend a two-year school while helping out with a family business, or they may want to simply take some classes while continuing to hone their skills in the arts.
Stepping Stone to a Bachelor’s Degree and Beyond
After the last few years, many students are not quite ready to leave home and focus only on a rigorous course load. Many high schoolers are burnt out from the hampster wheel of college admissions or are missing core soft skills that they didn’t develop during the pandemic.
Another one of the hidden benefits of community colleges is that often help first-year students by teaching actual college-readiness skills, like self-advocacy, communication with professors, time management, how to study, and more. These are vital to a student’s success at college and for thriving in the real world.
One of the most important observations I made about my students at a community college was their grit and perseverance. Most students are working a job while pursuing their degree, and giving it their best at every opportunity.
Starting college is tough, regardless of where it’s at, and community colleges give you the support you need to establish grit. Instructors and the institution offer students the grace and tough love to keep going.
Once students earn some credits, they realize that they can do it—and start to fly on their own.
Are you looking to have a better relationship with your teen? We love this book, Parenting Teens with Love and Logic: Preparing Adolescents for Responsible Adulthood, by Jim Fay.
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