Throughout this admissions cycle, community colleges have risen to the forefront of people’s minds. Each year, more students think about their local options for many reasons. The days where community college is seen as an extension of high school are quickly fading away; in particular as more students seek associate degrees and dual enrollment options.
When you dream of the college experience, community college may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But in today’s College 101 feature, we discuss why it can sometimes be the right fit.
What is Community College?
First, let’s clear this up a bit. The term “community college” is often used interchangeably in New Jersey with county colleges or junior colleges. Either way, these colleges are publicly funded two-year institutions which offer associate degrees; as well as remedial classes and even technical certifications.
The options and differences can vary state by state. Here in New Jersey, residents of each county can attend their local community or county college; for example, think Bergen Community College vs County College of Morris).
What Options are Available?
These schools are great for students unsure of where they want to attend college or what subject to study. By spending a semester or even a full year at a community college, you give yourself time to explore your post-high school options. You can also take a mix of courses, from common math and science classes to more unique options; such as forensics or video game design.
The past ten years have seen a boom in this sector, with schools across the state expanding their courses and campus facilities. Students can choose to pursue an associate degree, which is essentially the equivalent of the first two years at a four year institution. An associate degree may qualify you to enter the work force, depending on the field and type of position you’re looking for. Many community colleges also offer athletics, clubs and student activities similar to those you’d find at four-year institutions.
What are the Benefits?
These colleges provide students with a smooth transition to a four-year institution or into the work force. Personal advisement, small class sizes and a plethora of support offices make it the ideal environment for reluctant students. Additionally, community colleges offer highly competitive rates for classes per credit, often a fraction of even a state school.
Community colleges can be a wise financial decision, especially for students who are paying their own way and are reluctant to take on significant loans. Flexible class schedules allow students to work part or even full time while in school. And generous payment plans, along with financial aid support, help keep costs manageable.