What are community colleges?
Community colleges are institutions that usually offer two year, degree and certificate programs in higher education. They also offer students the chance to either, transfer to state or private universities and colleges for undergraduate and post graduate study, or to take vocational training courses and enter the job market directly after graduation.
There are over 1,132 community colleges in the U.S, starting from the Joliet Junior College in Illinois, which was established in 1901 and was the first community college in the country. There are over 12.8 million students enrolled in community colleges in various programs, with 770,797 associate degrees and 436,037 certificates awarded in 2012 alone. Enrollment is also high in vocational training, bachelors and distance learning programs.
Is financial aid available?
A majority of community colleges offer financial aid in the form of need-based scholarships, pay systems and even on-campus jobs. Similarly, numerous other sources of financial aid also exist, presented by the federal and state government as well as private and non-profit organizations. They provide financial aid in the form of grants, student loans, tax exemptions and need-based scholarships. The U.S. Department of Education awards about $150 billion worth of aid to more than 15 million students all across the country.
Financial aid, however, is only provided to people who fulfill certain criteria. The applicant must be a citizen of the U.S.A. and must have maintained an acceptable academic history and progress while people with any form of criminal background or history of un-lawful behavior are not eligible. Aid is also available for people with disabilities and to people who are themselves, or have parents, in the armed services. About 72% of all the students applying to community colleges apply for some type of aid and almost 58% of them succeed in getting it.
What are the benefits of a community college?
Community colleges account for almost 40% of all students enrolled in an undergrad program. The demand for these colleges is increasing steadily over the years and there are quite a few reasons behind this trend.
Open enrollment policy
Community colleges usually have an open enrollment policy in which the college does not require any other documentation or work experience except for a high school diploma or a GED certificate. This is beneficial for students because other colleges have a list of criterion that needs to be fulfilled before admission is granted, like job experience, internships, extracurricular activities etc, and not all applicants have the privilege of fulfilling these conditions.
Community colleges are generally cheaper than other general four year degree colleges and universities. The average annual tuition and fees for community colleges is $3,260 for the years 2013-2014, compared to 4-year colleges which have an average annual tuition and fee of $8,890 for the years 2013-2014.
About 60% of all students enrolled in community colleges have part time jobs because one of the biggest advantages of community colleges is that they have relatively flexible class timings. They offer evening and distance learning classes along with the usual morning classes which is why these colleges can be helpful for people who have part time or full time jobs. Class timings can be changed at your convenience while the growing number of community colleges, in almost every state, makes them suitable for people who do not want to travel to far from their local communities.
Career oriented education
Community colleges offer a great way for people to get jobs and start their careers in the smallest time possible. This is because these colleges offer vocational training courses and subjects with classes specifically designed for their practical and real world applications. Courses are designed to prepare students for their potential professions and rather than focusing on theory and textbook learning, many community colleges offer classes to maximize a student's grasp of the practicalities of their chosen careers.